Theory o f Mind

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In this webinar...

In this webinar, Bobbi Cooks talks about Theory of Mind.

What is Theory Mind

The ability to take another’s perspective or ‘put yourself in their shoes'.

Impaired theory of mind is a component of ASD, ADHD, and ODD. People with depression or anxiety often have impaired theory of mind. It is also seen in a range of chromosome disorders.

Theory of mind is confusing because it sounds like it should be a psychological theory. It is not a theory.

 

Instead, it refers to the individual theories we have about what is happening in the minds of others.

For example:

  • What are they thinking?

  • What are they feeling?

  • What do they want?

  • Why are they doing that?

  • What do they believe?

Theory of Mind is fully developed around 25 for males and 23 for female. If we have experience of mental illness, our theory of mind can regress.

Impaired Theory Mind

  • Difficulty predicting the behaviour or emotional states of others

  • Concrete thinking

  • Assume others can mind read

  • Are unsure of what their next response will be

Difficulties explaining own behaviour

​A lack of ability to articulate the reasons for their own behaviour

  • Unable to ‘take responsibility’ for own behaviour

  • Blaming others

  • Lying

  • Crazy long explanations that don’t make sense or have any relevance

Difficulty understanding emotions (their own and others)

  • Low interoceptive awareness
  • Sensory processing issues
  • Confusing and unpredictable
  • Disproportionate responses

Difficulty predicting the behaviour or emotional states of others

  • Concrete thinking

  • Assume others can mind read

  • Are unsure of what their next response will be

  • You wouldn’t like it if someone did that to you you?

Problems understanding the intention of others

  • Assume banter is bullying

  • Assume malicious intent

  • Observe peer playing and making incorrect assumptions

  • Observe adult conversations and make incorrect assumptions

A lack of understanding that their behaviour impacts how others think and feel

  • Unable to imagine how someone else feels

  • Unable to understand why once they say sorry its not all over

  • Unable to understand that someone can be angry, not want to be with you and still love you

  • Often laugh with relief and leave you or another child in a puddle on the floor

Problems with joint attentions and other social conventions

  • See no value in being interested in something other than their interests

  • Feels like they are lying if they pretend to be interested

  • DO not see any authority or hierarchy in relationships or roles

  • Don’t understand hidden curriculum

Problems differentiating fiction from fact

  • Makes computer games unsafe for some

  • For girls, modelling of ‘home and away’ or managing an issue

  • Start with truth and move to story

  • Vulnerable to being used, manipulated and bullied

So how does this play out at your house?

Ability to imagine what someone else might be feeling and moderating your behaviour in response

 

Ability to predict and interpret others behaviour

  • Unable to imagine how someone else feels

  • Unable to experience empathy

  • Assumption you don’t know how they feel until they make you experience it

  • Often laugh with relief and leave you or another child in a puddle on the floor

What can we do?

Teach concepts of feelings and emotions

  • Deliberate and explicit

  • Speech therapy

  • Supported and structured social skill groups

Teach awareness that others have their own state of mind

  • I’m noticing that...

  • I’m feeling...

  • I can see...

  • I’m wondering if…

Teach awareness that others have their own state of mind

  • Model

  • Social Stories (see Carol Gray - great for primary school children)

  • YouTube

  • Speech Therapy

Review different perspectives

  • I’m thinking that...

  • You are thinking that...

  • Your teacher is thinking that...

Role play and rehearse

  • Some will, some won’t

  • Model

  • Discuss scenarios

  • Use car rides

MAP

  • Mirror – what is the immediate need, validate feelings and experiences

  • Ask – a curious question to engage in problem solving

  • Prop up – words of encouragement, programs, tools and strategies

Support abstract concepts with scripts and visual aids

See the webinar slides for scripts for Mirror, Ask, and Prop up.

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