‘Theories of autism have not led to a better understanding of autism; nor have they been of benefit to autistic children and young people’.
Critically explore the literature on one theory of autism, to evaluate this statement.
Theory: Theory of Mind
Argument 1: Theory of Mind could not lead a better understanding of Autism
a) A ‘deficit’ in theory of mind may explain autistic traits (Baron-Cohen, Leslie & Frith (1985), etc.)
b) “Criteria”: Unique? No
(Down’s syndrome—Zelazo et al.,1996.
Deaf—Peterson & Siegal, 1999.
c) “Criteria”: Applies universally? No
(False-belief tasks: not all Autistic people failed this test
Advanced tests of ToM: ‘reading the mind in the eyes’ (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001), etc.)
d) Restate argument: Although A ‘deficit’ in theory of mind may explain autistic traits, it could not fully explain all characteristics of Autism.
Argument 2: Theory of Mind is not benefit to Autistic children and young people: Although it helps to design curriculums and interventions which could help autistic people better integrate into “real world”, it also build a wall between autistic people and neuro-typical.
a) Applications in intervention& Theory of Mind Training—–benefit
(Adibsereshki, N., Nesayan, A., Asadi Gandomani, R., & Karimlou, M. (2015). The Effectiveness of Theory of Mind Training On the Social Skills of Children with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders. Iranian journal of child neurology, 9(3), 40–49.
Holopainen, A., de Veld, D.M.J., Hoddenbach, E. et al. Does Theory of Mind Training Enhance Empathy in Autism?. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 3965–3972 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3671-1
b) ToM indicates that children and adults with autism have poorer social skills and difficulties with social interaction, but this is not consistent with the outcomes of their social interactions in the real world. (Morrison et al., 2020)
c) Will hurt autistic people and promote the myth of “lack of empathy” —- (bring in DEP theory here)
d) ? The training of ToM will lead Camouflaging, and relationship between camouflaging and well-being
Professor’s advice: Many thanks for submitting your essay plan and letting me know that you plan to focus on essay question 1. Theory of Mind is a suitable theory to look at for this essay question. Already you have found some relevant literature and your plan directly addresses the two elements of the question, which is good.
In terms of suggestions for next steps:
I am sure that you plan to, but remember to include introduction, definitions of key terms, and conclusion.
Consider whether ToM theory explains *all* autistic traits or not.
You have found some great literature already – as you extend your literature search, make sure you also include plenty recent literature, so you can reflect more recent research and writing (Morrison et al. 2020 is a good one to include and I see you have this, but see if you can find other recent research to accompany the older more classic literature). Consider too including the work of some autistic authors.
*important: The question of whether ToM interventions are effective is a good opportunity for some critical writing –> there are articles which suggest that it is not effective.
Good to see DEP and camouflaging being brought in.