The ‘Perspective’ of Autism

By: Rosemary Portera

The development of social skills is most challenging to a person with autism spectrum disorders. But why? What don’t they get? Today’s article will focus on one of our social/cognitive foundations- Theory of Mind or Perspective Taking.

Perspective Taking (“Theory of Mind”) is the ability to intuitively track what others know and think during a personal interaction, understand that information, and monitor our own responses, both verbally and non-verbally. Impairment in this area does not affect academics but can have a dramatic effect on virtually every form of interpersonal interaction. In very basic terms, it’s the ability to understand that you have different thoughts and feelings than me.

Michelle Garcia-Winner, founder of Social Thinking, believes that the deficits in perspective-taking skills accounts for most of the significant challenges faced by people with social cognitive deficits. So much of our communication is based on the situation and the things we don’t say through non-verbal means. Difficulties affect interpersonal interactions, comprehension of literature, socially-based themes in text and movies and interpreting directions by a teacher. It’s the reason why children and adults with autism find it so hard to make friends and sustain relationships.

Therapeutic interventions to address Theory of Mind/Perspective Taking deficits focus on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and teach individuals to identify their areas of weakness and to develop strategies and problem-solving skills to change their behavior. For more information about social cognitive functions and associated interventions, visit Michelle Garcia Winner’s web site at http://socialthinking.com/

Rosemary Portera, M.S., CCC-SLP is a Clinical Support Specialist at Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD).