Relationship between theory of mind and referential communication: an explanation of pragmatic deficits in autistic and Down's syndrome subjects
Keywords:High-Functioning Autism, Asperger syndrome, Down syndrome, theory of mind, referential communication, pragmatic abilities
This work focuses on the relationship between the capability of theory of mind and referential communication abilities in a group of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome children and adolescents, one group of Down Syndrome children, and another group of children with a normal development, both with the same linguistic development age. A group of referential communication skills (one type of pragmatic abilities) was assessed and compared with abilities of first and second order from theory of mind. The results show that the two groups of children with disorders had difficulties with theory of mind abilities and referential communication, compared with normal control subjects. The contingency analysis between theory of mind abilities and pragmatic abilities, show a different pattern of the relationship between both abilities in the three groups of subjects. The theoretical and practical implications of the results are thoroughly discussed in this paper.