Academic journal article Exceptional Children

What Does Research Say about Social Perspective-Taking Interventions for Students with HFASD?

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

What Does Research Say about Social Perspective-Taking Interventions for Students with HFASD?

Article excerpt

In order for individuals to lead a normal social life, they must interact with other people, in different settings. For the purpose of this study, socialization is defined as the process of realizing the norms and customs of a community through ongoing interactions and behaving accordingly in order to participate in society, which helps a person to enact different roles in various professional, educational, and casual relationships. Socialization occurs through interaction with others, requiring a person to have social skills (McFall, 1982): the set behaviors performed to carry out social tasks, such as making a friend or approaching a store clerk to ask a question. Social skills competence is the effectiveness of using these social skills along with others' evaluation of that behavior. Successful socialization requires that a person know appropriate behaviors for acceptable social interaction and have the ability to carry out these behaviors based on social cognition, or the understanding of others and the context (Najdowski, 2012). Specifically, social cognition is the understanding of mental states of others or "perspective taking." By recognizing the mental states of others, often referred to as theory of mind (ToM), people are able to interpret and anticipate the actions of others, which facilitates appropriate social interactions. Without sufficient perspective taking, a person cannot adequately make inferences on the thoughts, emotions, or intentions of others (Carter, Davis, Lin, & Volkmar, 2005). For example, an individual might talk incessantly about a topic boring to the listener, misunderstand the intentions of a person bumping into him or her in a crowded hallway, or confuse humor with being teased. Predictions about others' thoughts and behaviors are required for daily interactions and inclusion in society (David et al., 2010).

The effect of delays in social perspective taking extends beyond socialization in school and the workplace. In fact, perspective taking can affect academic performance, including reading comprehension and written expression. Understanding that others have individualized experiences and desires, making their thoughts different from one's own, is valuable for text comprehension as well as writing. For example, writing is a social activity used to communicate with others; without taking the audience's perspective, the writer will not be as effective. In other words, a writer's consideration of audience is fundamental to convince the reader to continue reading (Wollman-Bonilla, 2001), and those who fail to use information about their readers to compose are less able to produce quality writing (Gregg, 2009). When reading text, realizing others' varied experiences and goals allows for making predictions, which supports comprehension. Happe (1994b) found that individuals who performed poorly on ToM tasks also scored lower on the Comprehension subtest of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (Wechsler, 1974). Reading and writing are critical skills for many aspects of life, so those who struggle are at a considerable disadvantage to their peers.

Measuring Social Perspective Taking

Premack and Woodruff first coined the term theory of mind in 1978. Since then, many researchers have added that ToM is more complicated than just understanding that others have false beliefs and that it follows developmental stages (Flavell, Miller, & Miller, 1993; Perner, Leekman, & Wimmer, 1987). ToM develops in typical children between the ages of 2.5 and 5 years old, phasing through symbolic play, understanding the limits of other people's perceptions, and then realizing different mental states or beliefs (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985). Researchers use a variety of paradigms to evaluate an individual's ability to use perspective-taking skills. ToM first-order false-belief reasoning requires that a person be able to understand what other people think based on their desires and knowledge. …

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