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Theory of mind in children in Nurture groups.

By Karen Goodall and Lynne Binnie


Do children who attend Nurture Groups (NGs) show defecits in Theory of Mind (ToM)? This workshop will explore the existing research in relation to children with social and emotional difficulties. ToM is the ability to understand the full range of mental states and use this information to reflect on the contents of one’s own and others’ minds (Olson, Astington & Harris, 1988). Typically, children pass ToM tasks by 4--years (48 months) (Wellman, Cross & Watson, 2002) Poor ToM has been linked to a number of difficulties in an educational setting including poor peer relationships, lack of readiness for learning and lack of social maturity. Difficulties with ToM have been widely reported among children with ASD and those with hearing and visual impairment (Petersen, Petersen & Webb, 2000) but in children with social and emotional difficulties it is uncertain whether they have intact but skewed ToM skills (nasty ToM: Ronald, Happe, Hughes & Plomin, 2005) or whether they do indeed show ToM deficits. \ud As a result of this research and initial observations of children attending NGs it was hypothesised that this group would perform poorly on tasks of ToM. In total 40 children attending a NG were tested on the 3 ToM tasks. The results suggest that performance on the 3 tasks was poorer than would be predicted by age and and language ability; in fact they actually performed similarly to children with ASD. Further data collection is underway. This workshop will explore these findings and discuss the implications for assessment and intervention of children with social and emotional difficulties attending Nurture Groups

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