Expressive Drawing Ability, Emotion Recognition and Theory of Mind in Children with ASD

Carrie Ballantyne, Ruth Taylor

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Background: Drawing ability in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) tends to be relatively intact. However, research shows that drawings of children with ASD lack social and emotional involvement, possibly due to impairments in theory of mind (ToM) and emotion recognition (EF). The current study investigated if lack of ToM and ER in people with and without ASD affects expressive drawings of basic emotions.
Methods: Tests of ToM, ER and verbal mental age (MA) were administered to 40 children - 20 ASD, 20 typically developing (TD). Children also drew the six basic emotions. Childrens’ drawings were scored on a scale assessing the appropriateness of each facial feature to the emotion.
Findings: ER was significantly lower for the ASD group than for the TD group (U = 76.0, p =.017). ER was not significantly different for participants who passed or failed the ToM test (U = 111.0, p =.645). No significant differences were found between the ASD and TD groups on the expressive drawing task (U = 112.5, p = .857). Likewise, there was no significant difference in expressive drawing between those who failed or passed ToM( U = 114.5, p = .652).
Discussion: The current study showed that children with ASD are less able to recognise basic emotions; this does not hinder their expressive drawing of these emotions. This indicates that children with ASD may demonstrate ER in different ways to TD children. The apparent mismatch between ER and expressive drawing is likely due to elements of cognitive processing.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2016
EventBPS Developmental Section Annual Conference - Hilton Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Sept 201616 Sept 2016


ConferenceBPS Developmental Section Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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