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Supporting Theory of Mind Development: Considerations and Recommendations for Professionals Providing Services to Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Hutchins, Tiffany L. PhD; Prelock, Patricia A. PhD, CCC-SLP

doi: 10.1097/01.TLD.0000341128.01158.f2

Theory of mind (ToM) difficulties represent a core deficit underlying the social, behavioral, and communicative impairments characteristic of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This article provides a developmental perspective on ToM that can serve as a framework for understanding and addressing ToM deficits characteristic of individuals with ASD to assist in education planning. Popular methods for assessing ToM are reviewed and the use of social stories and comic strip conversations to facilitate ToM understanding is described in a case vignette, which provides preliminary evidence for the feasibility of this type of intervention for encouraging ToM development in children with ASD. Professionals who provide services to individuals with ASD are encouraged to incorporate assessment and intervention procedures that acknowledge the importance of ToM in their program plan and to consider the connections between ToM and communicative and behavioral functioning.

Department of Communication Sciences, University of Vermont, Burlington.

Corresponding author: Tiffany L. Hutchins, PhD, Department of Communication Sciences, University of Vermont, 406 Pomeroy Hall, 489 Main St, Burlington, VT 05405 (e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins