Teaching Theory of Mind Skills to Youth and Adolescents with Autistic Disorders

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Psychology and Special Education

Date of Award

Fall 2013


Youth and adolescents with autism, as opposed to younger children, have been an underserved population when it comes to Theory of Mind (TOM) training (Kasari & Rotherham-Fuller, 2005; Roeyers & Demurie, 2010; Vetter, Altgassen, Phillips, Mahy, & Kliegel, 2013). The literature is unclear as to the effect of ToM training on social skills in youth and adolescents with autism, as most studies have studied the opposite approach- that of teaching social skills and measuring the effect that the training had on ToM skills (Bauminger, 2002; Begeer, Gevers, Clifford, Verhoeve, Kat, Hoddenbach, and Boer, 2011; Gutman, Raphael, Ceder, Khan, Timp, and Salvant, 2010). The present study taught ToM skills to adolescents with autism, and also provided an opportunity for the participants and parents to share their perspectives on the functional experiences of the participants as a result of the study (Feng, 2001). A crossover design was used to provide a double blind procedure, so that participants received intervention and placebo without teachers, therapists, parents, or participants knowing which was which. Results showed that adolescents with autistic disorders can increase social skills through ToM Training, but outside influences can easily distract and impact the social skill learning process. In addition, results showed that the method of ToM training, in this case situation based training and emotional training, can affect social skills learning differently for each individual adolescent, based on a variety of factors.


Steven Ball

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Psychology