Further evidence that is consistent with a role for family talk in the development of theory of mind comes from deaf children of hearing parents who are late learners of sign language. Woolfe, Want, and Siegal (2002) found that late signers (who learned sign language in school) performed more poorly on a theory of mind test than native signers…Overall, then, evidence from typical and atypical development suggests that opportunities to listen to and engage in conversations about mental states contribute to the development of theory of mind.
There is a big assumption here that the author, at least as of right now, has not addressed. The idea that if a child listens to conversations about mental states, they will be eventually begin to engage in them. This may be the case for many people, but it has to be not the case for many people as well.
To put it another way, they are assuming that by simply observing something, you can learn how to participate in it. This is what, in my time in special education, we called the hidden curriculum. We just assume that people will learn the things that are observable. But, the language used in mental states (i.e. angry, sad, mad, happy, etc.) are not observable.
But are they observable? Not in the typical way of behavior that can be seen when you tell a person to jump, you can see them jump. What if facial expressions are the way kids learn the language of mental states. When I make this face, I am angry, when I make this face, I am sad.
Is this almost an unconscious experience, then? Or maybe it happens to all neurotypical kids. BUT!
How does this work with autism? One of the things that I was taught in my special education classes is to be very direct with autistics (they taught me to also call them people with autism, so…the jury is still out on that. But I am trying out using the language that I think is what many in the autistic community prefer, but that topic is for another post.) both in teaching and in explaining the rules. This was because they don’t learn well if they are not taught directly.
Why is this different? Why does there seem to be a disconnect between the observation and learning in autistics? Is there a disconnect? Gosh, I hadn’t even thought about that! I really need to be careful with my preconceptions; I have to be critical about all the assumptions I have because they are what the dominant culture has encouraged me to believe.
Okay, so I think that’s enough for now. It is something to think about. In a few weeks, I am going to look at this post again and reflect on it (Hopefully). I’ll put it on my to-do list.
Miller, Carol. “Developmental Relationships between Language and Theory of Mind.” American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 15.2 (May 2006): 142-154. Ebsco. Web. 26 March 2015.