4.8 Section summary
Most socio-cognitive approaches to autistic spectrum disorders seek to unify different symptoms in terms of models of underlying functioning.
Theory of mind approaches argue that difficulties in understanding mental states such as beliefs, intentions and desires are the ‘core’ problem.
Experimental tests of theory of mind employ tasks such as testing the understanding of false belief.
Baron-Cohen has identified early developmental milestones such as gaze-following as ‘pre-mind-reading’ skills. Children with autism show less of these skills compared to controls.
Some individuals with autism pass theory of mind tasks and have some capacity for everyday social understanding.
Self-awareness is an important skill that goes with more advanced theory of mind performance.
Frith and Happé have addressed symptoms such as repetitive behaviour and obsessive interests via a ‘cognitive style’ approach.
Hobson highlights a lack of innate emotional relatedness and a consequent deficit in inter-subjectivity as a key feature of autistic spectrum disorders.
Effects of a child's autism on parents and siblings are well documented.