Oh… this is a good one – you can read it all here:
What is With the “No Theory of Mind” Thing?!
Intro and Background:
Amazingly, 100% of the ASD professionals that I have worked with over the course of the past 16 months have either based their entire bodies of work on autistic theory of mind (ToM)deficits or have used the term quite frequently to refer to things that have nothing to do with ToM. In fact, many times it has been used in reference to me as an autistic adult to explain why the ASD professional and I had a misunderstanding, without any further attempt to understand my perspective. The whole thing is simply “dismissed” (as am I and my views) with a flippant comment that I am lacking ToM. This boggles my mind and also concerns me, as it is so far from the truth.
Theory of mind is often discussed in autism circles in relation to an early work done by Simon Baron-Cohen and Uta Frith and later expanded upon by many other works. In this early pivatol 1985 work, researchers show that some children with autism have delaysin the development of ToM based upon their answers to a first-order false belief test. Since this first work (sprouting many subsequent works on the topic as applied to the autistic community), the ToM term has permeated most every single curriculum, paper, article and theory on autism. This makes me very worried, as it takes only a bit of reading into the more current literature and history of ToM to understand how the entire concept is being misused and overused today by the ASD professional community and caregivers as a whole. I can only conclude that all these professionals are too overwhelmed by their day jobs to stay properly informed or to discern fact versus stigma. Hopefully this article will help summarize some of this data for them.
One of the dogmas about ToM and autism is that all autistic people lack ToM. To make matters worse, ToM is associated with being human in many referenced works and also with empathy. The autistic community (and advocates even) tend to make these statements about autism and lack of ToM black/white (IF autistic THEN no ToM, empathy, human can exist). When I dig into the actual research, though, I find ToM and the statements/tests/research made about it are in various (even extreme) shades of gray. In fact, 20% of the autistic children tested in this most-referenced 1985 study passed the test and therefore had ToM! But that little detail somehow doesn’t make the “headlines,” and instead it is assumed that since I am autistic I must lack it entirely. Since the ToM deficit is most often applied to all autistics as a meme, and is also tied to empathy and being human, many advocates take grave exception to the stigmas associated with this perception. The result is a flood of articles and research/logic that pick apart these papers on the subject due to inaccurate science and also lack of respect for autistic people as a culture. These works are readily available to anyone who can search the internet.
Read the rest of this great piece here: here: