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Theory of Mind for Children with Autism Part 1: Assessment & Evaluation

presented by Tiffany Hutchins and Patricia A. Prelock

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Disclosure Statement:

Financial: Tiffany Hutchins & Patricia A. Prelock receive compensation from MedBridge for this course. There is no financial interest beyond the production of this course.


Non-Financial: Tiffany Hutchins & Patricia A. Prelock have no competing non-financial interests or relationships with regard to the content presented in this course.

Satisfactory completion requirements: All disciplines must complete learning assessments to be awarded credit, no minimum score required unless otherwise specified within the course.

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Accreditation Check:
Theory of mind is often considered one of the core areas of deficit for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Do we have, however, content valid tools that help us understand areas of relative strength and challenge for children with ASD across the many dimensions of theory of mind? This course describes theory of mind and its implications for children with ASD, highlights the challenges in current assessment approaches and offers an innovative approach to theory of mind assessment that is both content valid and easy to use. Further, the presenters link assessment to intervention, demonstrating a profile approach to understanding theory of mind in individual children with ASD. Case examples are presented that link assessment to intervention targets.

Meet Your Instructors

Tiffany Hutchins, Ph.D.

Tiffany L. Hutchins is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Vermont. She earned an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience in experimental psychology and communication sciences and disorders at the University of South Florida in 2002. Dr. Hutchins’ research focuses on social cognition in typical and atypical…

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Patricia A. Prelock, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCS-CL

Patricia Prelock, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP, BCS-CL, is Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders, and Professor of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. Dr. Prelock coordinates parent training programs designed for caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorders and has been awarded more than…

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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1. Definition of Theory of Mind

One of the primary characteristics of autism is a significant impairment in social understanding. Baron-Cohen and colleagues (1985) have associated the challenges in social understanding with the development of theory of mind in children with ASD. It is important that clinicians understand what theory of mind is and that the dimensions of theory of mind suggest a larger weakness in social cognition.

2. Description of the Challenges in Traditional Theory of Mind Assessment

In this section we will highlight the limitations of ToM assessments including motivational, situational, cognitive & linguistic factors; issues of social validity and interpretation; and trying to make sense of a developmental model. To help participants understand ToM assessment in the context of social communication deficits in children with ASD, we will examine three levels of functioning: biological, cognitive and behavioral.

3. Introduction of the Theory of Mind Inventory-2

In this section of the presentation we present a comprehensive parent-information measure of ToM that addresses the challenges of traditional ToM assessments. As a parent informant measure, the ToMI-2 utilizes information that has been accumulated by the informant over time using questions that span a range of ToM knowledge areas. It is a more comprehensive and ecological valid approach as the questions represent real situations with an evaluation from the parent who knows the child best.

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