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Theory of Mind: Implications for Intervention

Theory of Mind: Implications for Intervention
Maura Berndsen, MA, CED, Cert AVT,
February 21, 2005

Listen and Talk
Education for Children with Hearing Loss
Bothell, Washington


"Theory of Mind" (ToM) addresses social cognition, such as people thinking about people. Through early childhood development, children recognize that people (including themselves) have thoughts, intentions, wants, and feelings. ToM describes a child's understanding that people's behaviors can be predicted or explained by various mental states. ToM is being researched in relationship to children who are deaf. Research confirms that children who are deaf demonstrate delays in ToM development, which leads to implications for practice.


Webster's Dictionary (1988) defines communication as "...a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system..." (p. 266). While the meaning of this commonly used word appears relatively plain and simple, the very fact that the definition involves the words "process" and "exchange" leads to complexities. As we consider the use of spoken language for communication, it is recognized that this process and exchange involves the integration of audition, speech, language, and cognition (Ling, 2002).

As described by Estabrooks (1994, 1998), these aspects exist in a symbiotic relationship, which rely on access afforded humans throughout their neurologic system. The human body allows individuals to express themselves and build relationships, learn and share ideas.

In recent years, our understanding of the brain and how it functions has led to new horizons in fields related to human development. Meltzoff (1999) described "...a revolution in our understanding of infant and toddler cognition that promises to have far-reaching implications for our understanding of communicative and linguistic development" (p.251). Current research has led to the realization that the depth of a young child's knowledge exceeds long-held beliefs supported by classical theory (Gopnik, et al..,, 1999; Meltzoff, 1999).

As science has focused on an individual's understanding of the mind and how that understanding impacts interpersonal communication, attention has been drawn to Theory of Mind (ToM).

Maura Berndsen, MA, CED, Cert AVT,

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