Theory of Mind is the ability to attribute one’s beliefs, intents, desires, and knowledge to oneself or others while understanding that other people have mental states that differ from our own. It is the ability to take on someone else’s perspective. It is about being aware that a particular situation may not look the same to another person. It includes being able to read what someone might be thinking just from their expressions and body language.
Hearing Loss And Delayed Theory Of Mind
It is not unusual for kids with a hearing loss to show delays in the Theory of Mind. There are more than a few possible causes for this, including:
Because children with hearing loss also experience trouble hearing conversations, they miss out on hearing others discuss their feelings, beliefs, and perspectives.
A child with hearing loss will often have a delay in language development, which affects their ability to understand social situations. The language used to describe feelings may be involved, making processing the auditory information in the brain difficult.
Parents typically speak to children with a hearing loss in a manner different from children with normal hearing. This manner of speaking is done to make the language more straightforward and more accessible. Unfortunately, it limits exposure to words that describe a person’s mental state.
Why Theory Of Mind Is Important
A child with a hearing loss may show a delay in the development of the Theory of Mind due to reduced auditory access to conversational language. The development of Theory of Mind skills is vital for a child as it can allow them to:
Build conversational skills
Understand social and linguistic cues
Establish and maintain social relationships
Increase their understanding of figurative language, verbal reasoning, and critical thinking
Support narrative comprehension
What A Parent Can Do
The welcome news is that there are steps you can take within your own home to limit the chances of your child having a delay in the theory of mind development:
Let your child hear your thoughts. By doing this, you are permitting your child into your mind and letting them see that different people have different perspectives.
Talk about events from the past with the child using mental state descriptive words. A discussion like this allows the child to see a shared event from a different perspective. It also gives the child the chance to use abstract vocabulary.
A child can play by imagining themselves in another person’s shoes. This role-playing gives them the chance to develop their theory of mind skills.
Try to incorporate mental state vocabulary words into any books that you and the child may be reading.
Instructing your child to think and use the language of thinking and feeling will be a tremendous asset to them in the future. The ability to think in this manner is critical for academic and social success. It is essential that parents of children with a hearing loss take steps to boost the development of the Theory of Mind in the child. For more information regarding Theory of Mind, check out www.asha.org.