Steps in Theory-of-Mind Development for Children With Deafness or Autism


concerning this article should be addressed to Candida C. Peterson, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia 4072. Electronic mail may be sent to


Prior research demonstrates that understanding theory of mind (ToM) is seriously and similarly delayed in late-signing deaf children and children with autism. Are these children simply delayed in timing relative to typical children, or do they demonstrate different patterns of development? The current research addressed this question by testing 145 children (ranging from 3 to 13 years) with deafness, autism, or typical development using a ToM scale. Results indicate that all groups followed the same sequence of steps, up to a point, but that children with autism showed an importantly different sequence of understandings (in the later steps of the progression) relative to all other groups.