Theory of mind and social skills in children with autistic spectrum disorders
Buntin, Lynn M.
Impairment in social interaction is one of the defming characteristics of autisticspectrum disorders. Three factors that may influence the pattern of social skills deficits in autistic individuals are explored in the present study. 1. Can the autistic individual pass theory of mind tasks? Baron-Cohen, Leslie and Frith (1985) suggested that the core impairments of autism could be explained by an inability to attribute mental states to oneself and others. The term ''theory of mind" is used to refer to this ability to represent mental states. 2. Does the autistic individual use logical/factual or mentalist strategies to solve theory of mind tasks? Happe (1994) suggested that if success on theory of mind tasks was due to the use of a logical strategy, this would explain why these individuals were still socially impaired. The underlying reasoning strategy about social situations may have an influence on everyday social interactions. 3. Is general social reasoning influencing theory of mind task performance and achievement of everyday social skills? Several suggestions have been made as to possible reasoning strategies that may be used by children with autistic spectrum disorders to solve theory of mind tasks or to circumvent a lack of theory of mind ability in everyday life. Children with high-functioning autism/Asperger's Syndrome were tested with a battery of theory of mind tasks (1st and 2nd order) and social reasoning tasks. Their performance on these tasks was compared to their everyday social skills as assessed by the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (Sparrow et al, 1984) and other parentrated questionnaires. Results were reported and discussed in the context of the relevant literature. The effects of theory of mind ability, social reasoning skills and the central drive for coherence on the everyday social skills of autistic children were discussed. Implications for clinical interventions for social skills deficits in children with autistic-spectrum disorders were discussed.