Retour vers liste

Détail de la contribution

Auteur: Camelia DASCALU

Self-reference perspective taking and theory of mind in autistic children: The case of two French-speaking autistic children

Abstract/Résumé: Self-reference is expressed by use of the first person pronoun. It is a complex cognitive process and requires cognitive maturity, implying multiple aspects related to pronoun acquisition (shifting reference, perspective taking and conversational roles), as well as self-representation and self-consciousness. The case of autism is a good example for the study of self-reference and pronominal use. Verbal children with autism find it difficult to use pronouns in communication, especially for 1st and 2nd person. This difficulty is important in the diagnosis of autism, and the complex expression of self-reference is related to the functioning of the theory of mind. Our purpose is to analyze the use of self-reference by children with autism and to argue that the difficulties encountered are not simply a semantic and pragmatic problem, but are actually related to a different cognitive style. More exactly, we want to show that perspective taking is difficult for children autism, becoming one of the causes for pronoun reversal or for the use of third person pronoun “he” instead of “I”. In order to verify this hypothesis, we will analyze the use of self-reference in the verbal productions of two French-speaking children with autism from a spontaneous video corpus containing 9 hours of recordings. The children are 4 and a half and 5 years old. They have been recorded once a month, for 6, respectively 7 months, by the researcher and by their parents. These recordings are transcribed with the CLAN program. In order to analyze correctly, we will use a coding grill specifying statements concerning perspective taking in the use of self-reference. We observed that both children use the pronouns “I” and sometimes “he” to refer to themselves for the same verbs or actions. But if their mother verifies the referent, the child is able to give a good answer, showing that they are able to recognize the statement is about them. This fact confirms our hypothesis that the poor perspective taking and theory of mind offer an important explanation for the difficulty to express self-reference correctly. We will develop this point by studying the impact of the theory of mind in the use of self-reference. This paper focuses on the use of self-reference applied to the case of autism. We wanted to show that the most satisfactory explanation for the complex use of self-reference in children with autism is provided by the impact of the theory of mind mainly corresponding to the role of perspective taking in speaking about oneself.