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The theory of mind basically deals with the assumption that people have a mind. This is because it holds that an individual can only discern hers or his own mind through an introspective process. For this reason no one can have access to another person's mind. This theory is believed to have a close correlation with autism. The mind enables an individual to be aware of personal attributes like desires, intents, pretence, beliefs and knowledge. These features enable a person to realize and understand that other people have intentions, beliefs and desires that are very different from his. Through this theory it is assumed that people have minds that are very different and this is based on social interaction as a reciprocal of nature. This is well explained when a person observes another person's use of language, joint attention, emotions and portrayed actions (Zufferey, 2010).
Theory of Mind Impairment
Basing on the impairment of the theory of mind, one may fail to describe the difficulties being experienced by another person through perception. This is commonly referred to as mind-blindness. For this reason individual with impairment of the theory of mind may experience great difficulties in observing things from a perspective which is not their own. Basing on the given case study it is quite evident that Tommy Johnson experience great difficulties if his normal routine is disrupted. He fails to adapt to any new trend because of the impairment of the mind theory. On addition, he fails to handle any new situation that comes his way because of the condition. Therefore it is quite evident that a deficit in the theory of mind is a major contributor to this health issue. Some of the main characteristics of the impairment in the theory of mind include poor ability in determining or discerning other people's intentions, general lack of an understanding of how other people's perpetuated behavior may influence or affect the people around them. Lastly such individuals have problems with socializing with others.
From the above description it is very clear that the impairment of the mind comes with a full package of other many complications. This is the reason why researchers believes that there is a very thin line between autism and deficit in the theory of mind. These complications are similar with those that are presented in Tommy Johnson's case study. For instance, the boy is naturally incapable of initiating a conversation with his age mates and besides, he fails to respond appropriately when others talk to him. This inability to socialize is a sign of autism as well as of theory of mind deficit. Therefore one cannot fail to think that the impairment of the mind is the main cause of the condition of Tommy. There is so much similarity between the two to an extend that one may fail to highlight the existing differences (Happe, 1995).
Tommy is not the only affected child since his elder brother exhibits some of this signs. For this reason an individual may want to know if the impairment of the theory of mind is hereditary and if not, why then has it to affect more than one member of a given family. From the numerous researches that have been conducted it has been proved beyond doubt that children suffering from autism fail to apply the theory of the mind. This is the reason behind their difficulties in dealing with issues that require them to understand the beliefs of others. It has been shown that these difficulties manifest a lot when a child is assessed for verbal skills. This is one of the main characteristic that is used to diagnose autism. Many children with this issue experience severe difficulties in conveying their mental status to other children. They general seem to lack the capabilities of the theory of the mind.
The Existing Relationship between the Theory of Mind and Autism
For a long time researchers have been working hard in order to get a clear understanding of the existing relationship between the two concepts. There are numerous ways that these researchers have used in an attempt to explain the underlying relationship. One of this ways explains that the theory of mind is very instrumental in helping a person to understand and cage the mental status of other people. The same theory plays a great role in childhood pretence plays. Therefore a child who fails to employ this theory is automatically limited in these areas of life. This further explains the intolerant behavior of Tommy at school and home. This concept is well explained when one understands that the ability to correctly represent desires, beliefs and thoughts under any given circumstance is tied on the theory of mind (Zufferey, 2010).
This concept givens a clear understanding of the inability of children with autism to forge pretence during their childhood plays. Because they are not able to pretend they fail to normal associate and socialize with other children in plays like the other normal children. Another way that is used to explain the correlation between autism and theory of mind is by employing a justification which is socially effective. This concept explains that autism is as a result of a responding and understanding emotional distortions which occurs because of a shortcoming in the theory of mind. This concepts suggests that normal people are natural born with the skills or social capabilities that help them to react and comprehend other people's feelings. Therefore children with autism lack this set of natural socializing skills.
Many other researchers and scholars think that the condition is as a result of some developmental delays. This concept is used to explain the variance in the complexity of the condition. Children with autism seem to vary greatly as far as their deficiencies are concerned. The variance in their deficiencies is because they are affected at different developmental stages (Happe 1995).
This clearly explains why Tommy's situation is more complex when compared with his brother's situation. Impairments in the early developmental stage always result to complex autism. This is because these impairments have the capabilities to completely alter further development of the joint attention habits or behaviors. In case of such scenario a child may fail to fully develop the theory of mind. Many experts think that the theory of mind is neither absent nor present in affected children because it only exists within a given range.
Through the conducted numerous research work scholars suggested that a number of autistic populations may fail to tell the mental status of other people, though this is not the case for the entire population. The latest researches that were done indicated that there are strategies that may be employed to help such children in coping with their situation. This coping mechanism is meant to aid in the facilitation of the behaviors of the autism children. These complications are also present in individuals under a strong influence of narcotics and alcohol, people with severe physical and emotional pain as well as those that have been deprived sleep. Mental abilities of a person can be impaired or sub-served through numerous mechanisms while maintaining the cognitive abilities and functions. Specific regions of the brain are usually involved in the activities of the mind theory (Zufferey, 2010).
It is therefore important to understand that autistic children experience a lot of issues in accessing the mental status of others as well as theirs. Publications and researchers that were conducted from as early as 1985 to recent years greatly emphasized that autism should be referred to or identified in other words like the blindness of the mind. They insisted on this name because they strongly believed that the blindness of the mind was as a result of a destroyed inborn or innate theory of the module of the mind. This damage was the main cause of the great difficulties in understanding other people's mental status. Many scientists and researchers are in agreement that autism results from some form mind blindness. Therefore it is well that this people are unable to understand the minds of others and for this reason they often hold unto some tasks on the basis of their false beliefs. The false beliefs that they hold make them to act differently from other children.
This further explains Tommy's uncontrollable screaming when his routines are tempered with. All his behavior is caved around his belief. For example, his inability to look at someone directly as well as his pleasure in tapping, twirling and peering through the lines. These actions result from the false beliefs that Tommy strongly holds on and that is the reason he cannot tolerate other people's way of doing things. Therefore blindness of the mind is the root cause of autistic. This is supported by the fact that autism emanates from destruction of specific module of the mind theory. This damages tempers with the ability of the mind to read some common normal subjects. This specific module is important in maintaining the proper function and structure of a person's mind. Since the mind has to be accessed in order for one to understand the mental state of another person and the explanation or meaning to the perpetuated behavior. It therefore clearly explains the abnormal behavior in autistic children (Bogdashina, 2005).
Theory of mind module is taught to be organized into several independent sub-systems. This module develops naturally in health individuals in a series of stages which are thought to correspond to the theory stages which are very different. These developmental stages are thought to correspond with the theory stages as shown by developmental psychologists. Researches that have adopted this claim insist that the module theory of the mind is innate and it operates in conjunction with the nature theory which controls the operation of the mind. Therefore the fundamental impairment that is seen in children with autism is generally as a result of lack of ability to think correctly, imagine and even counterfeit.
Unfortunately Tommy Johnson seems to portray most of the characteristics and features that have been discussed in this paper meaning that there is a chronic relationship between the theory of mind impairment and autism. There is adequate evidence to prove that mind blindness is the root or central cause of autism. Mind blindness affects many other important systems of the body that are essential for proper function and system coordination of an individual. This is the reason children with autism experience difficulties in communication which is a main hindrance to socialization. Therefore proper development and functioning of the theory of mind is essential for development of health children. The parent with such a child needs to develop a positive attitude in order to help the child accordingly (Happe, 1995).