, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 589-599

Understanding of Others' Intentions in Children with Autism

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Abstract

Many studies have shown that children with autism have difficulty understanding the thoughts and beliefs of other people. However, little research has been conducted on what these children understand about simpler mental states such as intentions. The current study tested the understanding of others' intentions in 2 1/2- to 5-year-old children with autism and a control group of children with other developmental delays. We used Meltzoff's (1995) test of understanding of others' unfulfilled intentions in an imitation context, with an additional “End State” condition. We found no significant between-group differences on any measure involving the understanding of others' intentions. Although within-group patterns suggested that children with autism may have a slightly less complex understanding of others' intentions than do other children, it was clear that any deficits these children showed in this area were not as marked as those they typically show on traditional theory of mind tasks.