Monday, November 24, 2008

Theory of Mind

I have read about and heard about The theory of mind or mind blindness that people on the autism spectrum do not possess. I think I understand it, but have never been able to explain it in a way that makes sense to me, much less the person I am explaining it to. I found the following passages in an article at

Sally has a marble. She puts her marble into the box, and then she goes outside. Anne comes in, takes the marble out of the box, and puts it in her basket. When Sally comes back, where will she look for the marble?

By the age of 4 or so, most children who watch this scenario played out by puppets - including children with Down's syndrome and other developmental problems - know the answer. But some do not. They do not understand that what they know and what Sally knows are different, that Sally has a mind of her own. The children who expect Sally to look in the basket, because they know that's where the marble is and can't believe that she doesn't, are the ones likely to be diagnosed with autism or its relative, Asperger's syndrome.

The theory of Mind as the author writes is "an innate ability to understand other people as having feelings, intentions, and pictures of the world that are not the same as our own. A theory of mind is a basic requirement for empathy or, for that matter, deceit..... a theory of mind is what people disabled by autism and its related conditions lack.

I find this happens to me a lot. Just yesterday, I had to copy three files to a folder and put them on my husband's computer desktop. He had been complaining for some time that he couldn't get to them because they were on a shared drive and not where they were before. In other words, when he opened our recipe database, it no longer brought up the Schleicher family cookbook.

Now he knew the files were on an external hard drive, but that I had had to move all those files to my Mac. Long story. Now I am not sure if he didn't have permission to navigate to that file through our network or what, but he wanted access to those recipes and couldn't get there. So since I couldn't yet reconnect the external drive system, I got on our network and did a drag and drop of the files from the mac to his machine.

To me that was a rather first grade act. I said to him later. "you know you could have just gone to the Mac and transferred that file to a disk yourself instead of having to wait for me to do it. He looked at me as if I had asked him to hack into the government's nuclear launch codes. "Everybody can't do the things you find so easy." he said. I just don't understand that he doesn't know all the things I know. Heck I talk about it enough.

I guess that's why some people with Aspergers find it so hard to lie. If you think everyone knows what you know, of course they can see right through what ever lie you just told, or shall I say, tried to tell. Katie has such a hard time lying that when I ask her if she's finished her homework for example, she just doesn't answer. She can't say no (she didn't do it) because she doesn't want to get in trouble. However she can't say yes (a lie) because I must know she hasn't. I have to go through all sorts of maneuvers with things like this, explaining to her to just give me a yes or no, that she's not in trouble, I just need to know in order to decide what I need to do next. etc. Do I need to remind her to put her book bag away, Is she hungry, does she need help, did she get distracted etc. I think you get the point.

It also explains why Andy gets so frustrated with his classmates. Why don't they just be quiet? Don't they get how interesting ancient Egypt is? Certainly they can hear how loud their music is. They surely know he can't concentrate with anything but classical music on. Andy has supersonic hearing.

Well we may not know what you all are thinking, and according to this theory, it's not the same as what we are thinking; but at least at home with my kids, we understand each other. Of course as Katie would say, her poor dad is the "Clueless Dude" lol

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