History of Autism

This is a condensed history of Autism. In keeping with the practice of citing references, please note I used a Parents.com article titled ” The History of Autism” as a base of information, ( see original online). They provided the “bones” for this blog. ( Thank you) Here I have used my own wording, but full credit for the majority of dates listed and the homework involved in creating the list must go to them. I have added comments and changed wording, details, and added dates that I was able to find while searching for documentation and more information. I have been able to fully confirm the statements here using online research outside the quoted reference above. You can check for more info online as always.

Autism Timeline

1908 Eugene Bleuler , a Swiss psychiatrist, uses the word “autism” to describe traits of a certain group of schizophrenic patients. The word is based on Latin root words which mean “keeping to oneself”

1925 Grunya Sukhareva, a Russian child psychiatrist , described symptoms of recognizable behavior patterns in a group of children she described as autistic.

1943 Leo Kanner MD, publishes a paper describing “early infantile autism” describing traits of children who isolated themselves from others.

1944 Hans Asperger , Viennese pediatrician, describes “a milder form of autism” in a group of boys he was studying, saying they had trouble with social interactions and obsessive selected interests.

1950’s ( and well into the 1960’s ) Through the work of Leo Kanner, autism and many psychological disorders were blamed on cold and uncaring mothers. In 1967 Bruno Bettelheim even coined a term “refrigerator mothers”, and Kanner’s original theory was popularized on news media and talk shows. The idea of “poor parenting” being to blame for so many disorders was touted- although the same ” poor parents ” might also have had several children who were thriving. This theory has been disproved and for the most part discarded, and not a moment too soon. ( my opinion)

1977 Studies of twins shows autism is genetic and due to biological conditions in brain and neurological development. ( continuing scientific studies have even located specific genes which seem to be connected to autism)

1980 “infantile autism” is listed in USA’s DSM( diagnostic criteria) for the first time as a condition separate from schizophrenia.

1981 Lorna Wing, psychiatrist in London England, originates the term Asperger’s syndrome in describing higher functioning autism in a group of individuals. Lorna Wing is also credited for recognizing and describing the “triad of impairments” that is used as part of the diagnostic descriptions of autism today.

1988 Rainman movie is released, and public awareness of autism is raised to a higher level. Today autism is a feature in many characters of fiction, movies, television, even cartoons. Media has raised awareness, but frequently also has caused many misconceptions about autism.

1991 USA adds Autism to be included in education system under Special Education category.

1994 Aspergers’s Syndrome added to the DSM in USA as a separate category of high functioning autism.

1998 Lancet publishes a study looking at the possibility that MMR or other childhood vaccines may cause autism. This theory has been debunked by many published scientific studies after, but it still has a following despite proof to the contrary.

2000 Thimerosal is removed from all childhood vaccines due to public pressure, there has been no link found in studies; once again, the theory of vaccines or any of their components as a cause of autism has been scientifically proven incorrect.

2009 USCDC estimates autism is likely present in 1 of 110 children.

2013 DSM 5 in USA removes Asperger’s syndrome as a separate diagnosis, replacing it with new diagnostic criteria as autism.

2015 USCDC statistics now show autism may occur in 1 of 58 individuals. Males are still diagnosed more frequently than females, and the change in numbers is most likely due to better recognition and diagnostic criteria. There is discussion today (2019) that diagnostic criteria need to be developed further and there is a growing perception that females may show different signs of autism than males.

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