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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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1.1 Theory of Mind

Back in the 1980s, autism researchers Simon Baron-Cohen, Uta Frith and Alan Leslie set out to investigate why children and adults with autism seemed prone to misunderstanding social situations, and were claimed to be unaware of other people’s feelings. They devised an elegant psychological test which suggested that most children with autism have great difficulty in ‘putting themselves in another person’s shoes’, that is, understanding that others have thoughts, knowledge, beliefs, desires and goals which may differ from their own. This difficulty in understanding other people’s thoughts and points of view is known as a Theory of Mind (ToM) or ‘mindreading’ problem (Baron-Cohen, Leslie and Frith, 1983).