During the course of this discussion the complex area of autism research will be explored. Autism is a highly complex disorder that has an onset between birth and early childhood (Howlin, 1998). It is believed that the disorder may be caused by a complex mix of biological, neurological and genetic factors (Grayson, 2006).
Autism spectrum disorders are classified as pervasive developmental disorders (Volkmar, Stier and Cohen, 1985). There is currently no specific test that can identify autism. However, autistic disorders are listed under the DSM - IV-TR (APA, 2000). A child with the disorder would be expected to display a lack of communication skills, interpersonal skills and imaginative skills. Up to 91 children per 100,000 are believed to suffer from autistic spectrum disorder (Wing, 1996). Within this group up to 80% will suffer from severe learning difficulties (Jordan, 1999).
The socio-cognitive theory of mind deficit (Baron - Cohen et al, 1985) and the theory of executive dysfunction (Yun Chin and Bernard-Opitz, 2000) illustrate how developmental psychology can contribute to understanding children's cognitive and social abilities.
The theory of mind deficit states that sufferers have an impaired ability to understand the mental states of either themselves or those around them. The inability to read other people's minds appears to be a distinctive feature of autism. There is a great deal of empirical and anecdotal evidence to support this theory. The theory of executive dysfunction focuses on the learning and information processing abilities of autism sufferers. Signs of executive dysfunction include mental rigidity and perseveration.
The strategic deception test was formulated in order to discover whether failure on a deception task was due to a theory of mind deficit, or whether the failure could be explained using the theory of executive dysfunction. The sample consisted of sixty autistic participants and a control...