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Autism is generally evident before age 3 and ranging from mild to major. Autism is a developmental disability affecting verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction.
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Theory of Mind - the ability to take another's perspective or "put yourself in their shoes"
Theory of Mind Strategies:
Children with autism may experience difficulties with:
impaired perspective: intuition, introspection, intention reading, initiation, imitation
We do not lack "empathy" as people know it. We lack "cognitive empathy". That is, the abiity to predict other's thoughts and intentions including the ability to "read between the lines" during communication. We have plenty of "affective empathy", which is the ability to share another person's feelings with them. We have plenty of "compassionate empathy", which is the desire to help others (though we may not always know how). Many of us have too much affective and compassionate empathy which can be overwhelming for us.
Difficulty with social relationships - Many people with Asperger syndrome have difficulty in understanding how others think and feel which may lead to naive, or socially inappropriate behaviour. They often try hard to be sociable and do not dislike human contact. However they still find it hard to understand nonverbal signals, including facial expressions.
Difficulty with communication - People with Asperger syndrome may speak very fluently but they may not take any notice of the reaction of people listening to them, continuing to talk about one topic regardless of the listener's interest or lack of it. Their voice and facial expression may be flat or unusual and they may have odd gestures or eye contact. In many cases they may take jokes or expressions literally and have difficulty in understanding sarcasm.
Lack of imagination - While they often excel at learning facts and figures people with Asperger syndrome often find it difficult to think in abstract ways. They may have restricted interests, narrow unsociable and unusual hobbies, and sometimes have an obsessive insistence on routines.
Many people with Asperger syndrome have difficulty planning and coping with change and, despite average or above average intelligence, there may be a notable lack of 'common sense'. Everybody is different, and every person with Asperger Syndrome has' his/her own particular difficulties and strengths, but social problems, unusual verbal and nonverbal expression and narrow interests are the common features of Asperger syndrome.
Some people with Asperger syndrome may only receive a diagnosis in adulthood, and others may remain undiagnosed. Some individuals will manage very well, while others need a lot of support.
People with Asperger syndrome seem to have difficulty understanding what those around them think and feel. Because of this, they often behave inappropriately in social situations, or do things that may appear to be unkind or callous.
Executive Function - the brain's ability to take in information, information, interpret this information, and make decisions based on this information (planning, organizing, shifting attention, multi-tasking). Challenges:
Executive Function Strategies:
How Autism Spectrum Disorder Affects Mental Health - The following shows which items on this scale would be rated as abnormal for Autism Spectrum Disorder:
The Sally Anne Test has been used in psychological research to investigate theory of mind. A theory of mind is the ability to understand your own and other people's beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions. (I think he's happy. I feel happy!) Theory of mind is important because "the ability to make inferences about what other people believe to be the case in a given situation allows one to predict what they will do."
It has been proposed that lacking a theory of mind may explain some of the social and communication difficulties experienced by individuals with autism. To start the test, two dolls, one called Sally and the other called Anne, are presented to the child. The child is then told that Sally has a basket and that Anne has a box. Next the child is told that Sally puts a marble inside her basket. Sally then leaves and goes outside where she can no longer see her basket. While Sally is away Anne takes the marble from Sally's basket and puts it inside her box. The child is told that Sally comes back inside.
Next come the questions: To make sure the child understands the basics he or she is asked: Which one is Sally? Which one is Anne? Where is the marble now? Where was the marble in the beginning? Then comes the big question: the theory of mind question asks where will Sally look for her marble?
If the child realises that Sally will look for the marble in her own basket and not in the box, then the child can understand Sally's perspective and you can say that the child has a theory of mind. If the child says that Sally will look for the marbel in Anne's box then you might say this child does not have a theory of mind. In this case the child does not appear to understand Sally's perspective and that she did not see Anne take the marble and put it inside the box.
The results? Only 4 out of 20 children with autism got the question correct. The results from similar studies showing that children with autism frequently get the theory of mind question incorrest is taken as the potential reason why they sometimes have difficulty with social skills and communication.