Open Access Open Badges Study protocol

Individual differences in the efficacy of a short theory of mind intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder: a randomized controlled trial

Elske Hoddenbach1, Hans M Koot1, Pamela Clifford2, Carolien Gevers2, Cassandra Clauser3, Frits Boer4 and Sander Begeer15*

Author Affiliations

1 VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2 Wei43, Amsterdam, Netherlands

3 De Bascule, Amsterdam, Netherlands

4 AMC De Bacule, Amsterdam, Netherlands

5 School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia

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Trials 2012, 13:206  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-13-206

Published: 9 November 2012



Having a ‘theory of mind’, or having the ability to attribute mental states to oneself or others, is considered one of the most central domains of impairment among children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many interventions focus on improving theory of mind skills in children with ASD. Nonetheless, the empirical evidence for the effect of these interventions is limited. The main goal of this study is to examine the effectiveness of a short theory of mind intervention for children with ASD. A second objective is to determine which subgroups within the autism spectrum profit most from the intervention.


This study is a randomized controlled trial. One hundred children with ASD, aged 7 to 12 years will be randomly assigned to an intervention or a waiting list control group. Outcome measures include the completion of theory of mind and emotion understanding tasks, and parent and teacher questionnaires on children’s social skills. Follow-up data for the intervention group will be collected 6 months after the interventions.


This study evaluates the efficacy of a theory of mind intervention for children with ASD. Hypotheses, strengths, and limitations of the study are discussed.

Trial registration

Netherlands Trial Register NTR2327