Theory of Mind and the Triad of Perspectives on Autism and Asperger Syndrome: A View from the Bridge

Theory of Mind and the Triad of Perspectives on Autism and Asperger Syndrome: A View from the Bridge

Theory of Mind and the Triad of Perspectives on Autism and Asperger Syndrome: A View from the Bridge

Theory of Mind and the Triad of Perspectives on Autism and Asperger Syndrome: A View from the Bridge

Synopsis

Autistic individuals, parents and professionals are united in their concern with autism and Asperger Syndrome but divided by their diverse perspectives. Olga Bogdashina uses the concept of Theory of Mind (ToM) as a starting point from which to consider the interplay between these three groups.

Excerpt

Whenever we talk about autism, the attribute 'mysterious' comes to mind. We may describe autism as a devastating condition or a gift, but it is still mysterious, as we do not understand it. After several decades of intensive research in the field of autism, and dozens of theories attempting to explain the enigma of autism, we are not very much wiser. This bookis an attempt to remove a few (out of many) obstacles on the way to understanding autism.

One of the main obstacles is 'one-sidedness'. For example, a very interesting and influential theory attempting to account for autism is weak central coherence theory (Frith 1989) which focuses on an inability of autistic people to integrate pieces of information into coherent wholes. This fragmentation is illustrated in many logos of autistic societies around the world. We are accustomed to the pictures of jigsaws as emblems of autism. However, if we remove 'one-sidedness' from this explanation, the question arises – 'Do we look at autism as a whole or just juggle bits and pieces of this condition?' We often focus on certain pieces of the 'autism jigsaw' and miss an opportunity to see the whole picture. How can we put these pieces together to reveal the meaning of autism? At present, the situation in the field of autism (research, theorizing, treatments) resembles the situation described in the fable 'The Blind Men and the Elephant' (see Box 0.1). And it is no surprise, as our limited knowledge of the condition 'blinds' us and prevents us from seeing the whole. However, we have a bonus: our 'elephant' is not mute! But are we prepared to listen? From the very beginning of the 'official history' of autism (Kanner 1943), the syndrome of autism has been described from the outside, how it looks, rather than how it feels from the inside. Now we can get a unique opportunity to learn what it is like to live with autism. Numerous personal accounts have been published and many autistic individuals are willing to talk at conferences and congresses about their experiences. The . . .

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