Importance: Theory of mind (ToM) and executive function (EF) are often used to explain social interaction deficits in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but no behavioral studies have specifically examined their relationship.
Objective: To investigate the cognitive correlates of social interaction in daily contexts by ToM as well as cool and hot EFs among children with ASD.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Teaching hospitals, clinics, and developmental centers.
Participants: One hundred thirty-two children with ASD and their caregivers.
Outcomes and Measures: Measurements included the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Theory of Mind Task Battery, Dimensional Change Card Sort, and Children’s Gambling Task, respectively, for children’s daily social interaction, ToM, cool EF, and hot EF. Pearson’s correlation analyses and three hierarchical regression models were conducted to identify the significant predictors of daily social interaction while controlling for verbal comprehension, measured using the Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) of two Wechsler scales.
Results: ToM and cool EF were significant cognitive predictors of social interaction in daily contexts in children with ASD whose verbal comprehension was average or above average.
Conclusions and Relevance: Our results suggest that ToM and cool EF are predictors of social interaction in daily contexts when considering children’s verbal comprehension. Hot EF was not a significant predictor, contrary to our hypothesis. This behavioral study fills a research gap by enhancing the understanding of important cognitive correlates of social interaction in daily contexts for children with ASD to improve evaluation and intervention planning with this population.
What This Article Adds: This study identified two cognitive predictors, ToM and cool EF, of social interaction in daily contexts for children with ASD. In addition to verbal comprehension, occupational therapy practitioners should assess ToM and cool EF to inform more comprehensive evaluation and intervention planning to improve social interaction in daily contexts for children with ASD.