There are several different approaches used to help children who have social difficulties. One approach is what we might call a “top down” approach. The child is introduced to different situations and told what to do in different types of situations. This is helpful because children with ASD will not infer pragmatic language, it must be taught.
At Cornerstone Speech, we do not feel that this is enough. Children with autism also show a specific deficit in understanding Theory of Mind, or the perspectives of others. We use a research-based therapy program published by Carol Krakower in her book Practical Theory of Mind Games: Learning Social Skills from the Bottom Up (LinguiSystems Publishers, 2013). This program teaches perspective-taking that children with ASD fail to develop without specific instruction. This is the necessary “bottom up” approach that children need to understand why people behave the way they do.
Many children with an ASD are only able to see the world from his or her own visual perspective. As a toddler, this is evident when the child doesn’t point to show things to others. The child cannot understand that one must point to an object to draw the other person’s vision to that object. If you assume that everyone sees what you see, you will not point!
Now think about childhood games: hide-and-seek, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. What is it all about? It is about the fun most young children have when one person sees something that the others cannot see! Children with ASD don’t understand what the game is about.
Think about children’s books. How many books are about something that the reader knows but the characters don’t know? Children with ASD miss this point and don’t understand the story.
Theory of Mind therapy gives your child the tools to:
Understand what others know, expect, and believe
Understand social behaviors
Predict the behavior or emotional state of others
Infer the intentions of others
Understand how behavior impacts how others think and feel
At Cornerstone Speech, we will initially test your child’s comprehension of basic Theory of Mind in social interactions and stories. We teach Theory of Mind through games and playing stories and then re-test the child’s comprehension after completion of the program. It is amazing to see how much progress many children make in comprehension!