Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Theory of Mind

Hubby and I were discussing this last nite, so I thought it to be a good entry in my blog. The mind is compromised of beliefs, desires, emotions, perceptions and intentions. Theory of mind or ToM as it is commonly abbreviated is, the ability to attribute these mental states to self and others in order to understand and predict behavior. It involves making the distinction between the real world and mental representations of the world. ToM develops early in life with the ages of 3-4 years being the most rapid in development. However, a child with ASD is often characterized as not having a typical ToM. Our aspie is 5, and we have noticed he does struggle with this. For example, if someone takes a toy from him, he cries. However, if he takes a toy from someone and they begin to cry, his typical response is, "why is so and so crying? It's my toy, all I did was take it back?" He cannot project his feelings onto another. In other words, he cannot understand that the same thing that makes him cry, would inevitably make another cry. On other occasions, when LJ will be having a play date, and his friend decides he doesn't want to play what LJ wants to play(he tends to think he should run the show.) LJ will become angry and tell his friend to go home. When his friend gets upset and does just that, LJ then begins to cry and ask me why his friend went home. He doesn't grasp that he 1. told him to do so, and 2. he may have upset his friend. Another example of this that happens quite a bit is name calling. A neighbor child will call LJ a cry baby, he will either cry or become enraged. He then will call this child the same name, and when said child becomes mad and goes home, LJ will then ask me why. He cannot seem to understand that if something hurts his feelings, it will usually hurt someone else's. I found a cool ToM test for children.  We tried it on LJ, and of course he gave the typical ASD answer. Our aspie does however have a very vivid imagination, he always has. He has never had a problem pretending, just a problem perceiving others emotions, therefore causing some strain on his peer relationships. I have read that if we work on this, we can help him develop a better ToM, which will help him succeed in personal relationships as he gets older.

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