Autistic children’s explanations of their own behavior

Evidence of other-attentiveness

Authors

  • Gates Eleanor Henderson Victoria University of Wellington

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jircd.20363

Keywords:

Autism, Conversation Analysis, Accountability, Parent-child Talk, Discursive Psychology

Abstract

Purpose: This article reconceptualizes theory of mind (ToM) and perspective-taking as a practical accomplishment in social interaction, and analyzes how, and when, autistic children produce explanations of their behavior in ways that address how other people do, or may, understand it.

Method: Three families with autistic children collected video recordings of themselves interacting at home. From 5 hours of video, a collection of 45 instances of accounts produced by autistic children was made, transcribed, and subjected to conversation analysis.

Results: Accounts occurred in both initiating and responsive turns. Accounts produced in initiating turns addressed the potential characterizations of this and themselves their interlocutors might make. Their accounts in second position addressed actual characterizations in interlocutors’ preceding turns. As well, two of the children produced accounts which constructed their behavior as the result of internal causes.

Discussion and conclusion: These analyses demonstrate the children’s practical reasoning about how other people observe, recognize, and understand their behavior. Despite autism being linked to difficulties with ToM and perspective-taking, these autistic children manage perspective-taking through the provision of accounts in multiple sequential positions. These findings challenge the emphasis on ToM deficit based explanations of autism, while suggesting a stronger research focus on local, situated perspective-taking in social interaction.

Author Biography

Gates Eleanor Henderson, Victoria University of Wellington

Gates Henderson is a PhD student in the School of Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. In her PhD work, she uses conversation analysis to study the social interaction between parents and their autistic children. Her interests lie in morality/accountability, identity, gender and sexuality, and atypical talk.

References

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

Antaki, C. (1994). Explaining and arguing: The social organization of accounts. London; Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Antaki, C. (1996). Explanation slots as resources in interaction. British Journal of Social Psychology, 35(3), 415–432. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.1996.tb01105.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.1996.tb01105.x

Antaki, C. (2004). Reading minds or dealing with interactional implications? Theory and Psychology, 14(5), 667–683. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354304046178 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354304046178

Baron-Cohen, S. (1991). Precursors to a theory of mind: Understanding attention in others. In A. Whiten (Ed.), Natural theories of mind: Evolution, development, and simulation of everyday mindreading.

Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., and Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a ‘theory of mind’? Cognition, 21(1), 37–46. https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(85)90022-8 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(85)90022-8

Baron-Cohen, S., Jolliffe, T., Mortimore, C., and Robertson, M. (1997). Another advanced test of theory of mind: Evidence for very high functioning adults with autism or Asperger syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38(7), 813–822. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01599.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01599.x

Bottema-Beutel, K. (2017). Glimpses into the blind spot: Social interaction and autism. Journal of Communication Disorders, 68, 24–34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2017.06.008 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2017.06.008

Boucher, J. (2012). Putting theory of mind in its place: Psychological explanations of the socio-emotional-communicative impairments in autistic spectrum disorder. Autism, 16(3), 226–246. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361311430403 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361311430403

Butler, C. W. (2008). Talk and social interaction in the playground. Aldershot; Burlington: Ashgate.

Button, G. (Ed.) (1991). Ethnomethodology and the human sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511611827

Church, A., and Bateman, A. (2019). Methodology and professional development: Conversation analytic role-play method (CARM) for early childhood education. Journal of Pragmatics, 143, 242–254. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2019.01.022 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2019.01.022

Coulter, J. (2008). Twenty-five theses against cognitivism. Theory, Culture and Society, 25(2), 19–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276407086789 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276407086789

Couper-Kuhlen, E. (2012). Turn continuation and clause combinations. Discourse Processes, 49(3–4), 273–299. https://doi.org/10.1080/0163853X.2012.664111 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0163853X.2012.664111

Dinishak, J. (2016). The deficit view and its critics. Disability Studies Quarterly, 36(4). https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v36i4.5236 DOI: https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v36i4.5236

Edwards, D. (1997). Discourse and cognition. London: Sage Publications.

Edwards, D. (2012). Discursive and scientific psychology: Discursive and scientific psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51(3), 425–435. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.2012.02103.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.2012.02103.x

Edwards, D., and Potter, J. (1992). Discursive psychology. London; Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

Edwards, D., and Potter, J. (2005). Discursive psychology, mental states and descriptions. In H. te Molder and J. Potter (Eds.), Conversation and cognition (pp. 241–259). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Cambridge Core. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511489990.012 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511489990.012

Fletcher-Watson, S., McConnell, F., Manola, E., and McConachie, H. (2014). Interventions based on the Theory of Mind cognitive model for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD008785.pub2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD008785.pub2

Frith, U., and de Vignemont, F. (2005). Egocentrism, allocentrism, and Asperger syndrome. Consciousness and Cognition, 14(4), 719–738. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2005.04.006 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2005.04.006

Gallagher, S. (2004). Understanding interpersonal problems in autism: Interaction theory as an alternative to theory of mind. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 11(3), 199–217. https://doi.org/10.1353/ppp.2004.0063 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/ppp.2004.0063

Gallagher, S. (2020). Action and interaction. New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198846345.001.0001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198846345.001.0001

Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Garfinkel, H., and Sacks, H. (1970). On formal structures of practical actions. In J. Mickinney & E. A. Tiryakian (Eds.), Theoretical sociology: Perspectives and developments (pp. 337–366). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Gernsbacher, M. A. (2017). Editorial perspective: The use of person-first language in scholarly writing may accentuate stigma. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(7), 859–861. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12706 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12706

Gernsbacher, M. A., and Yergeau, M. (2019). Empirical failures of the claim that autistic people lack a theory of mind. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 7(1), 102–118. https://doi.org/10.1037/arc0000067 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/arc0000067

Hadwin, J. A., and Kovshoff, H. (2013). A review of theory of mind interventions for children and adolescents with autism spectrum conditions. In Simon Baron-Cohen, M. Lombardo, and H. Tager-Flusberg (Eds.), Understanding other minds (pp. 413–427). https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692972.003.0023 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692972.003.0023

Happé, F. G. E. (1994). An advanced test of theory of mind: Understanding of story characters’ thoughts and feelings by able autistic, mentally handicapped, and normal children and adults. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24(2), 129–154. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02172093 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02172093

Heasman, B., and Gillespie, A. (2018). Perspective-taking is two-sided: Misunderstandings between people with Asperger’s syndrome and their family members. Autism, 22(6), 740–750. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361317708287 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361317708287

Hepburn, A., and Bolden, G. B. (2017). Transcribing for social research. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781473920460 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781473920460

Heritage, J. (1988). Explanations as accounts: A conversation analytic perspective. In C. Antaki (Ed.), Analysing everyday explanation: A casebook of methods (pp. 127–144). London: Sage.

Heritage, J. (2012). Epistemics in action: Action formation and territories of knowledge. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 45(1), 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2012.646684 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2012.646684

Hutchby, I. (2002). Resisting the incitement to talk in child counselling: Aspects of the utterance ‘I don’t know.’ Discourse Studies, 4(2), 147–168. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614456020040020201 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14614456020040020201

Hutchby, I. (2005). Children’s talk and social competence. Children and Society, 19(1), 66–73. https://doi.org/10.1002/chi.858 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/chi.858

James, A., Jenks, C., and Prout, A. (1998). Theorizing childhood (reprint). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Jefferson, G. (1979). A technique for inviting laughter and its subsequent acceptance declination. In G. Psathas (Ed.), Everyday language: Studies in ethnomethodology (pp. 79–95). New York: Irvington Publishers.

Kanner, L. (1943). Autistic disturbances of affective contact. Nervous Child, 2, 217–250.

Keel, S. (2016). Socialization: Parent-child interaction in everyday life. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315609706 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315609706

Kenny, L., Hattersley, C., Molins, B., Buckley, C., Povey, C., and Pellicano, E. (2016). Which terms should be used to describe autism? Perspectives from the UK autism community. Autism, 20(4), 442–462. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361315588200 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361315588200

Kidwell, M. (2005). Gaze as social control: How very young children differentiate ‘the look’ from a ‘mere look’ by their adult caregivers. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 38(4), 417–449. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327973rlsi3804_2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327973rlsi3804_2

Kim, H. (2002). The form and function of next-turn repetition in English conversation. Language Research, 38(1), 51–81.

Kimhi, Y. (2014). Theory of mind abilities and deficits in autism spectrum disorders. Topics in Language Disorders, 34(4), 329–343. https://doi.org/10.1097/TLD.0000000000000033 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/TLD.0000000000000033

Korkiakangas, T., Dindar, K., Laitila, A., and Kärnä, E. (2016). The Sally-Anne test: An interactional analysis of a dyadic assessment. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 51(6), 685–702. https://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984.12240 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984.12240

Lamerichs, J., Alisic, E., and Schasfoort, M. (2018). Accounts and their epistemic implications. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 2(1), 25–48. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.35244 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.35244

Leudar, I., and Costall, A. (Eds.) (2009). Against theory of mind. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230234383 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230234383

Livingston, L. A., Colvert, E., Social Relationships Study Team, Bolton, P., and Happé, F. (2019). Good social skills despite poor theory of mind: Exploring compensation in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 60(1), 102–110. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12886 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12886

Lombardo, M. V., and Baron-Cohen, S. (2010). Unraveling the paradox of the autistic self. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 1(3), 393–403. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcs.45 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/wcs.45

Mackay, R. (1975). Conceptions of children and models of socialization. In R. Turner (Ed.), Ethnomethodology: Selected readings (pp. 180–193). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Maynard, D. W., and Turowetz, J. J. (2017). Doing testing: How concrete competence can facilitate or inhibit performances of children with autism spectrum disorder. Qualitative Sociology, 40(4), 467–491. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-017-9368-5 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-017-9368-5

McCabe, R., Leudar, I., and Antaki, C. (2004). Do people with schizophrenia display theory of mind deficits in clinical interactions? Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 401–412. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291703001338 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291703001338

Milton, D. E. M. (2012). On the ontological status of autism: The ‘double empathy problem.’ Disability & Society, 27(6), 883–887. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2012.710008 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2012.710008

Milton, D. E. M., Heasman, B., and Sheppard, E. (2018). Double empathy. In F. R. Volkmar (Ed.), Encyclopedia of autism spectrum disorders (pp. 1–8), New York: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_102273-1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_102273-1

Mondada, L. (2016). Conventions for multimodal transcription. Retrieved 6 August 2019 from https://franzoesistik.philhist.unibas.ch/fileadmin/user_upload/franzoesistik/mondada_multimodal_conventions.pdf

Ochs, E. (2015). Corporeal reflexivity and autism. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 49(2), 275–287. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12124-015-9306-6 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12124-015-9306-6

Premack, D., and Woodruff, G. (1978). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1(4), 515–526. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X00076512 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X00076512

Sacks, H. (1985). On doing ‘being ordinary.’ In J. M. Atkinson (Ed.), Structures of social action (pp. 413–429). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511665868.024 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511665868.024

Sacks, H. (1992). Lectures on conversation. Cambridge: Blackwell.

Schegloff, E. A. (1992). Repair after next turn: The last structurally provided defense of intersubjectivity in conversation. American Journal of Sociology, 97(5), 1295–1345. https://doi.org/10.1086/229903 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/229903

Schegloff, E. A. (2007). Sequence organization in interaction: A primer in conversation analysis. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791208 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791208

Schiffrin, D. (1996). Discourse markers (1st paperback ed., reprint). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scott, M. B., and Lyman, S. M. (1968). Accounts. American Sociological Review, 33(1), 46–62. https://doi.org/10.2307/2092239 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2092239

Sidnell, J., and Stivers, T. (Eds.) (2012). The handbook of conversation analysis. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118325001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118325001

Sterponi, L. A. (2003). Account episodes in family discourse: The making of morality in everyday interaction. Discourse Studies, 5(1), 79–100. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614456030050010401 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14614456030050010401

Sterponi, L. (2004). Construction of rules, accountability and moral identity by high-functioning children with autism. Discourse Studies, 6(2), 207–228. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445604041768 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445604041768

Stickle, T., Duck, W., and Maynard, D. W. (2017). Children’s use of ‘I don’t know’ during clinical evaluations for autism spectrum disorder: Responses to emotion questions. In M. O’Reilly, J. N. Lester, and T. Muskett (Eds.), A practical guide to social interaction research in autism spectrum disorders (pp. 247–273). London: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-59236-1_10 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-59236-1_10

Stokoe, E. (2014). The conversation analytic role-play method (CARM): A method for training communication skills as an alternative to simulated role-play. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 47(3), 255–265. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2014.925663 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2014.925663

Warnell, K. R., and Redcay, E. (2019). Minimal coherence among varied theory of mind measures in childhood and adulthood. Cognition, 191, 103997. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2019.06.009 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2019.06.009

Published

2021-06-17

How to Cite

Henderson, G. E. . (2021). Autistic children’s explanations of their own behavior: Evidence of other-attentiveness. Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders, 10(2), 99–124. https://doi.org/10.1558/jircd.20363

Issue

Section

Articles