Whether or not you understand the concept of a ‘theory of mind,’ it is one of the most important components of communication and social interactions. Having a ‘theory of mind’ means being able to understand that you have unique beliefs and thoughts and that other people also possess a set of beliefs and thoughts that differ from your own. This can also extend to attitudes and emotions. Throughout early childhood development, children learn that other people may not share their interests and perspectives. This also leads to the development of a sense of empathy, or understanding the feelings of another individual (or sharing those feelings).
Theory of Mind and Autism
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have a limited theory of mind, in comparison to other children who are not on the spectrum. It is common for children with autism to have difficulty understanding how and why other people do not think the same way that they do or believe the same things that they do. One example of this lack of theory of mind is when children have an area of high interest, such as trains. A child with autism may talk their classmate’s ear off about how trains work, local train schedules, etc. and not notice that their classmates eyes have completely glazed over. It can be difficulty for that child on the spectrum to recognize that someone else does not share their same interests or is not engaged in a conversation.
Why is theory of mind important?
Theory of mind is important because this skill allows young child to successfully communicate and interact with others. If a child is lacking theory of mind, they may experience gaps in communication with others.
Theory of mind and ABA therapy
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy can help children with autism to develop their theory of mind. ABA therapy is an extremely successful treatment for autism, as it helps children develop positive behaviors and targets problem behaviors. Children on the spectrum benefit from ABA therapy because this method emphasizes the importance of identifying the function of a behavior and considering how environment can impact a behavior. An ABA therapist might work with a child with autism to develop theory of mind through modeling and imitation. Creating stories about social situations that illustrate theory of mind can also help children on the spectrum practice developing their theory of mind. Working on these skills will help children to be more successful in interacting with peers and communicating with others in social settings.
Would you like to learn more about ABA in Chicago and theory of mind?
Contact us or call (773) 630-4400 to learn more about the range of services we provide for children who are on the autism spectrum at Chicago ABA Therapy, including applied behavior analysis therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.
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