Taking another’s perspective in autism is a big developmental milestone. You have to think dynamically to see the world from another person’s viewpoint. People with autism like to think in concrete details. Static information that doesn’t change is more their forte. You can see how a skill like this would have to be consistently worked on for a significant amount of time .
For us, we began working on this in several steps.
- We begin with self talk. This means that I would talk out loud about how I perceived another person’s perspective. It means that before I do something I have to talk about the why and how. This is certainly an acquired skill. All those thoughts rolling around in your head. Say them out loud. This helps your child make the connection that other people have ideas too. Describe what you see while driving. No questions are asked during self talk. You make all declarative statements.
- Scale back the self talk. Here’s where you ask open ended questions such as Why would he do that? What was she thinking? Did that work out for him? How do you think she’s feeling?
- Begin to look for opportunities to ask your child how other people think about certain situations. TV programs are great for this step. You can have some great conversations while watching tv together. Don’t do it on every program or your child will see it as a chore. This makes for a negative episodic memory. We are aiming for positive ones.
Curious as to what it looks like?
Leslie and Logan deciding to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Logan: ” My favorite part of the movie is the chocolate making in the beginning. What’s yours, Leslie?”
Leslie (picking up her chin off the floor): “My fave part is when they pass by the puppet hospital in the glass elevator and Willy Wonka says it just opened recently.”
Logan: “Thomas (his friend from church) doesn’t like this movie. I think it’s because his mom always turns it on when the babies are fussing.” (Thomas’ little brother Caleb, age 2, LOVES this movie)
Leslie (still recovering): “Oh, is that what Thomas told you?”
Logan : “No, he just said that he didn’t like the movie. But I think it is because the babies are always watching it.”
Not only did he seek out Leslie’s perspective (asking her for her favorite part) but he was also able to take Thomas’ perspective to figure out why he wouldn’t like the movie. This was a two part accomplishments. Wanting to know what someone thinks and taking the steps to discern that information is the logical next step of this milestone. The great part is that achieving one part of the milestone naturally leads to the other. Sort of like putting one piece of the puzzle into place shows you the next one.