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Theory of Mind


This article provides general information only and is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

Serenity is not responsible for the results of decisions made resulting from the use of this information, and we recommend that you discuss your child's situation with their paediatrician.


What do we need to know about Theory of Mind?

  • As kids grow, they develop an understanding of what others might be thinking or feeling.

  • It’s important for kids to know that we all have our own wants and needs, so we respond to things differently.

  • For neurotypical children, perspective taking comes through daily interactions.

  • Neurodivergent children may lack Theory of Mind and struggle to communicate because it can be difficult to see another perspective (a.k.a mind-blindness).

Sue Larkey, Mainstream and Special Education Teacher, shares on her podcast; Signs of an Impaired Theory of Mind:

  • Problems with understanding emotions

  • Difficulty understanding their impact on others’ emotional state

  • Anxiety

  • Exhaustion in social situations

  • Making literal interpretations

Why is Theory of Mind important?

  • It is the key to social interaction and maintaining relationships.

  • It is a big part of having empathy, which helps us form connections with others.

  • Neurodivergent kids may sense an emotional state but struggle to identify what the emotions are and why someone is feeling that way.

  • Working on Theory of Mind may help kids develop the ability to "read" others and make predictions about their own feelings too.

How can we develop Theory of Mind?

  • Engage children in pretend role-play where they can explore thoughts and behaviours.

  • Encourage them to share, play and ask questions. Social interactions allow children to experience, and so begin to make sense of a range of behaviours.

  • Theory of Mind takes special effort to develop because someone's mental state isn't easy to see. Let's help neurodivergent kids tune into other people, so that they can embrace others’ individualities as well as their own!


If you’re interested in reading more, some of this information was found in Bill Nason’s book The Autism Discussion page: On the Core Challenges of Autism. Published 2014

Aside from working with primary aged children that have Autism, a lot of my knowledge and research was from the help of Sue Larkey. Sue is a Mainstream and Special Education Teacher with a vast knowledge of Autism. If you would like further information on any of the topics in my blog posts, you can visit

Written by Gemma Itropico and edited by Denali Wright Serenity Social & Support Services, 2021


Want to stay up to date with our thoughts on topics such as Theory of Mind? We create fun infographics to share on Instagram and Facebook so that we can share bite sized snippets of info with Autism parents on the go!

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