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Teaching Conversational Skills to Children with Autism: Effect on the Development of a Theory of Mind

Abstract

This research examined whether children with autism could be trained to improve their conversational skills and whether this led to changes in standard tests of theory of mind (ToM). Three high-functioning children with autism participated in a multiple baseline across participants design. The children were taught how to initiate a conversation, take turns during conversation, listen attentively, maintain a conversation topic, and change a conversation topic appropriately. The children were tested for ToM using False Belief tasks before and after training sessions. Results indicate that the amount of shared interest exhibited by the children with autism during conversation with their caregivers increased during training sessions. The children also made more responses that were appropriate to the context of the conversation. Performance on the False Belief tasks remained constant throughout the study. Results are discussed with respect to the implications of results of performance in standard ToM tasks.

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Chin, H.Y., Bernard-Opitz, V. Teaching Conversational Skills to Children with Autism: Effect on the Development of a Theory of Mind. J Autism Dev Disord 30, 569–583 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005639427185

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  • Conversational skills
  • autism
  • theory of mind