Theory of Mind, Executive Functioning, and
Central Coherence in Asperger Syndrome
After I had been working with Asperger children for many years, I met Linda Lotspeich, MD, the head of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders Clinic and a researcher on autism spectrum disorders in the Child Psychiatry Division of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. When we met, she had been aware that I included individual treatment in my work with Asperger Syndrome children. She asked me to tell her about my work with them. I described my observations of who these children are, as well as my observations of the process that occurred in my sessions with them. I used specific examples to illustrate the process. She listened, and then said to me, [You are talking about theory of mind. You've read the theory of mind literature.]
I had never read about, or even heard about, theory of mind. When I did read about theory of mind and executive functioning, as they relate to Asperger Syndrome and the autism spectrum, I discovered the language that helped me articulate and explain what I had learned in my clinical work with these children and their parents. Now I utilize these concepts consciously and directly in my work.
More recently, Dr Lotspeich and I both were presenters in a Cleo Eulau Center Continuing Education Symposium on Asperger Syndrome. In her presentation (Lotspeich 2001) she described the concept of central coherence. This concept seemed to describe and explain aspects of what I had observed with these children. Learning more about this has helped me to articulate my understanding of the gifts as well as the deficits that we find in those with Asperger's.