Effects and Moderators of a Short Theory of Mind Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Sander Begeer*, Patricia Howlin, Elske Hoddenbach, Cassandra Clauser, Ramon Lindauer, Pamela Clifford, Carolien Gevers, Frits Boer, Hans M. Koot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Limited perspective taking or "Theory of Mind" (ToM) abilities are a core deficit of autism, and many interventions are aimed to improve ToM abilities. In this study, we investigated the effectiveness of a ToM treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and, for the first time, the moderating roles of social interaction style (SIS) and disruptive behavior (DB), to determine which children are most likely to respond to this intervention. The trial protocol is registered at www.trialregister.nl, trial number 2327 and published before the data collection was finished (www.trialsjournal.com). Children with autism aged 7-12 years (n = 97) were randomized over a waitlist control or a treatment condition. Outcome measures included ToM and emotion understanding, parent and teacher questionnaires on children's social skills, ToM-related social behavior, and autistic traits. Six-month follow-up parent reported data were collected for the treatment group. The treatment had a positive effect on ToM understanding, parent-reported ToM behavior, and autistic traits, but not on parent or teacher-reported social behavior. Passive SIS was associated with diminished treatment effects on autistic traits, but DB was unrelated to outcomes. The ToM intervention improved conceptual social understanding and ToM-related behavior of children with ASD. However, broader application of learned skills to other domains of functioning was limited. Individual differences with regard to treatment response are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11
JournalAutism research
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Apr 2015

Keywords

  • Autism
  • Moderator
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Theory of mind
  • Treatment

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