Can You Teach Perspective Taking to Individuals with Autism?



Shannon: Can you teach perspective taking, Dr. Tarbox?

Dr. Tarbox: Can you teach perspective taking? Yes, perspective taking is highly teachable. The ABA approach to perspective taking is to treat it like any other skill. It's a cognitive skill, which means it's complex and confusing, but it's still something that you learn in your lifetime as an individual, if you know how to do it. If you don't know how to do it, you can be taught how to do it. And a lot of folks on the autism spectrum don't necessarily learn to be good at perspective taking without direct instruction on it. And frankly, a lot of typically developing folks don't either.

So if you want to teach perspective taking, this is how you do it. You provide lots of practice opportunities for the particular perspective taking skill you want to teach. So you start with really simple stuff, like recognizing other people's facial expressions, paying attention to other people's eyes and other people's emotions, and then you move towards identifying what other people can see versus how that's different for you. I forgot to mention, you got to start with pronouns, because pronouns are sort of the cues that cue the individual in to thinking about their own perspective versus somebody else.

So repeated practice of how do you feel versus how does Sally feel? How do you feel versus how do I feel? What color shirt am I wearing versus what color shirt are you wearing? Why do you feel the way you feel? Because I got an ice cream cone and I wanted it. Why is Sally sad, because she thought she was gonna get an ice cream cone, but she didn't get it.

Then moving on to intentions. So you show multiple examples of people doing things intentionally versus accidentally, and literally just prompt and reinforce the child. Did he do it on purpose? Was it an accident? If you were doing that, would you have done that on purpose? Or would you do it as an accident? Then move on to, you know, knowledge. So what does the other person know versus what do you know? And why does the other person know? Oh, because he was there to see it. Were you there to see it? No. Okay, so that's why you don't know it.

Moving on to deception. If you wanted to play a trick on mom so she didn't know, what would you have to do? Well, you'd have to keep it out of her view. You'd have to hide. Don't tell her, don't give away the secret, blah, blah, blah, like that. And then lots and lots of practice across many exemplars until you get generalization to new untrained settings.

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