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Teaching Children with Autism to Mind-Read: The Workbook by Julie A. Hadwin, Patricia Howlin, Simon Baron-Cohen

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Chapter 1Introduction

Introduction to Theory of Mind

Individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) have difficulties in social interaction and communication, alongside repetitive and stereotyped behaviors and unusually narrow interests.1 Social interaction difficulties include indifference or aloofness towards other people, problems understanding and responding to social cues or displaying inappropriate social behavior. For example, individuals with ASC may display less eye contact and make fewer gestures when speaking with others. In addition, they may show atypical body posture or proximity when interacting (e.g., an awkward or unusual gait, or standing too close to another person or talking in too loud a voice). In these situations individuals with ASC often do not have a good enough understanding of the unspoken rules of conversation, or the social norms required to interact effectively with others.

Theory of mind

Effective social interaction requires an understanding of the mental states of others, including their beliefs, emotions, intentions and desires. Theory of mind (ToM) is a term used to encompass an individual's ability to understand mental states in order to make predictions about a person's behavior.2 A substantial body of research has shown that individuals with ASC show difficulties and delays in understanding the thoughts and feelings of other people and in demonstrating that people can have thoughts and feelings that differ from each other and their ...

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