Teaching Theory of Mind and Social Cognition

Teaching Theory of Mind and Social Cognition

Teaching Theory of Mind and Social Cognition
February, 2018

Teaching Theory of Mind (ToM) Skills is both a challenging and very important part of the work ABA Therapists do. These higher-order thinking skills equip us with the ability to be socially competent and to understand the world and the people around us. ToM or Social Cognition allows people to understand how others’ might be thinking and feeling and to see things from another’s perspective. Impairments in ToM can greatly affect the kids’ ability to interact socially, especially as they get older and begin school. Some common impairments that you may recognize are the inability to understand facial cues or recognize emotions, their difficulty understanding how their behaviour affects others and even the inability to tell when someone is joking with them or trying to deceive them.


Following are some tips for teaching ToM skills within NET or Social Cognition programs:

  1. Try to keep learning as natural as possible in order to promote generalization. Kids will often try to memorize responses however with social cognition; they have to be quite flexible with their knowledge.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask the same questions over again in order to facilitate understanding e.g. Just because Tim knows what happens at the end of the movie, his brother may not, even though he was in the same room when the movie was on.
    • Do you know the ending? Yes – because I watched the movie
    • Does your brother know? No – because he was talking to someone else in that part
    • Does your Mum know? Yes – because she watched it last week
  3. Finally, try to keep a natural progression by linking the programs together:
    • What does Jimmy think of the movie? – It’s great! (Thinking)
    • How do you know that? – Because he told me (Knowing)

So which movie would he prefer out of Transformers and Spiderman – Transformers! (Preferences)