UCT Autism ACSEPT recently published an article in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health where we
shared our insights on testing Theory of Mind in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This article highlighted
the need to consider other cognitive abilities during testing, and to ensure that all tests are appropriate. We thank all the families who have participated in our studies over the years for allowing us to gain this experience, and to now share this with other researchers and clinicians. We hope to keep learning more as our research continue.
Article: Hamilton, K., Hoogenhout, M., & Malcolm-Smith, S. (2016). Neurocognitive considerations when assessing Theory of Mind in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 28(3), 233-241
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterised by poor social competence, and as Theory of Mind (ToM) is a building block for social-communicative skills and successful social integration, these skills are important to assess when preparing and monitoring educational and therapeutic plans. ToM is a complex skill requiring the ability to form mental concepts, to represent complex constructs verbally, to inhibit some mental states in favour of others, and to consider and compare multiple perspectives. It is critical to consider cognitive influences on the ability to develop and convey ToM skills to ensure that deficits in other cognitive domains do not falsely present as ToM deficits. This consideration is particularly vital in ASD populations with known difficulties not only in ToM, but also in intellectual functioning, language and executive functioning. This article reviews the influence of intellectual ability, language, working memory, and inhibition skills on the presentation of ToM, with particular focus on ToM in ASD. We discuss practical suggestions based on clinical experience in neuropsychological practice and research in South Africa for the successful assessment of ToM ability.