Research on verbal and nonverbal communication, research on children with ASD s’ role-taking skills also provides support for the premise that they evidence social-cognitive deficits. Role-taking or being able to put oneself in another person’s shoes is a complex cognitive-affective activity that is critical to gaining further knowledge of and compassion for others (Shantz, 1975).
It seems logical, then, that if children have trouble interpreting the emotions of others due to social-cognitive deficits, that these deficits would also lead them to have difficulty understanding and taking the viewpoint of others; this appears to be the case. In a study by Dickstein and Warren (1980), children from age five to eleven were asked to engage in three role-taking tasks. One task was to determine what another child was thinking, a second what another was feeling, and a third what another child was seeing from a different perspective.
Across all three tasks, children with ASD performed less competently than children without disabilities. These findings have also extended to the role-playing of various real-life situations such as making friends. As an example, Stone and LaGreca (1984) had children with and without disabilities take the role of making friends with a new child at school. While engaging in this task, children with ASD received a lower overall rating on a global judgment of their social competence, indicating that their schema for how to go about making friends with another child may not have been accurate.