Objectives: To investigate in high-functioning children with ASD (HFASD) the progression of ToM development and the understanding of the two core components that underlie the concept of teaching: (a) the knowledge difference between teacher and learner, and (b) that teaching is an intentional activity.
Methods: Participants were recruited through the Autism Instructional Methods Survey (AIMS) study (Mandell et al., 2010). Inclusion criteria for participation included verbal ability within the normal range (≥ 80), assessed using the Differential Ability Scales (DAS-II). Preliminary data are presented for 35 HFASD (32 boys, mean age 8:1, range 6:5-8:10) and 23 TD controls (20 boys, mean age 6:4, range 5:8-7:6) individually matched on verbal mental age. Children completed Wellman and Liu’s (2004) ToM scale and an understanding of teaching scale (Woodburn, 2008). Control questions were included for all tasks in both measures.
Results: For the ToM scale (5 tasks), a group difference was found between HFASD and TD participants on both the knowledge acquisition task and false belief task, p < .05, respectively, Fisher’s exact test. For the teaching scale (7 tasks), a group difference was found in the overall teaching score with HFASD performing worse than TDs (t(50) = -2.63, p = .01). On the individual tasks, a difference was found between target and control participants on the embedded teaching task, p < .06, Fisher’s exact test. Data collection is ongoing and will include an overall sample of 70 participants (35 ASD, 35 TD).
Conclusions: These initial findings suggest that compared to their younger, verbal mental age-matched TD counterparts, children with HFASD are delayed in ToM development and in developing an understanding of two core components that underlie the concept of teaching: (a) the knowledge difference between teacher and learner, and (b) that teaching is an intentional activity. Gaining knowledge about when and how children with ASD develop an understanding of teaching may provide information critical for learning and teaching in this population, and may also advance theories of social competence, moral reasoning, and academic development.
See more of: Cognition and Behavior
See more of: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Phenotype