Uses of the ToMI-2

The ToMI-2 was designed as a broadband measure of ‘theory of mind” functioning as it is expressed in real-world samples of behavior that can be reliably and accurately identified by caregivers who know the child best. Because the ToMI-2 is a caregiver-informant tool, it does not suffer from test-practice effects and is useful as a repeated measure. It may be used in the context of intervention studies designed to assess the effects of social skills curriculum as well as a progress monitoring tool in educational programs that are examining children’s response to instruction.

Because deficits in theory of mind represent a universal characteristic of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a potential use of the ToMI-2 is to aid in the identification of ASD and the sensitivity and specificity of the ToMI-2 for this purpose are excellent. The ToMI-2 is also advantageous because although normed on children ages 2- 13, it can be used for individuals older than age 13 who are are risk for poor theory of mind development. Moreover, a self-report version of the ToMI-2 is also available for use with older children with good reading and verbal skills.

The ToMI-2 may be used as part of a larger evaluation procedure in the identification of psychiatric and developmental disorders (e.g., ASD, ADHD), that are accompanied by impairments in theory of mind although, at present, it is not intended as tool for differential diagnosis. Moreover, traditional theory of mind tasks (e.g., the Sally-Anne task) are difficult and cumbersome to adapt for use with some populations. Specifically, the ToMI-2 may be a particularly valuable tool for assessing the theory of mind competencies in children and adolescents with sensory loss (e.g., blindness, hearing loss).

The ToM2 is designed to tap a wide range of theory of mind competencies; thus, it may be particularly helpful for identifying areas of strength and weakness in an individual’s social-cognitive profile and it can be used to identify developmentally appropriate targets for treatment. Hutchins and Prelock (2008) described the ways in which the earlier (and similar) version of this measure was used as part of a larger assessment battery for precisely these purposes.

We have previously argued (Hutchins, Bonazinga, et al., 2008, Hutchins et al., 2011) that the use of caregivers as informants, who are uniquely situated to observe their child’s theory of mind as demonstrated (or not demonstrated) during real world social interaction, helps move us toward an assessment of theory of mind that is socially-valid and family-centered. Measures with social significance are important because they help to ensure that assessment is relevant and meaningful in everyday life. Moreover, given that primary caregivers are expert authorities on their children, caregivers can be recruited as valuable partners in assessment, treatment planning, and evaluation of interventions. When theory of mind competencies are relevant, the ToMI-2 can act as a tool for beginning a conversation with families about the child’s strengths and challenges, treatment strategies and supports that are likely to enhance outcomes, and the families’ priorities for intervention.