Autism Over the Years

hans asperger history

For decades parents have shied away from vaccines believing that it lead to a much worse diagnosis: autism. What they fail to realize is that science has long proven that theory is completely false. Yet parents are still afraid.

The history of autism awareness began in 1943 when child psychiatrist Leo Kanner published a study about 11 patients. He described them as having their own private worlds, ignoring other people including their own parents. They were also able to amuse themselves for hours but would be stricken if a toy was suddenly moved. According to Kanner, autism was an infantile psychosis resulting from cold, unaffectionate parents.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that people really began to question Kanner’s conclusions. Cognitive psychiatrist Lorna Wing had a daughter who was clearly autistic. She rejected the assumption that her and her husband were unaffectionate. The couple was warm and caring to their child. So Lorna and colleague Judith Gould set out to test the prevalence of autism in the London suburb of Camberwell. What they found was that Kanner’s criteria was far too narrow and that autism is more diverse than they ever thought.

The second, and more accurate, story of autism came a year earlier in Germany. Unfortunately due to the devastating world war around that time, it was quickly buried and forgotten. Hans Asperger, who ran a combination clinic and school in the 1930’s, authored the piece. Here he describes autism as a polygentic disability that required a lifelong support and accommodation. He also recognized the unique and valuable gifts his students possessed, calling them little professors. Even more appropriately, he explained the disability as a continuum rather than a narrow, fixed set of characteristics.

In the 1980’s, Lorna and Judith worked relentlessly with the American Psychiatric Association to broaden the criteria and accept the modern term, “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” By then a wave of awareness came over the community with the release of “Rain Man” and newly developed testing.

Now we are in the age of redefining autism and discovering the term neurodiversity. Asperger poignantly explained that the “cure” for autism is compassionate teachers, accommodating employers, supportive communities, and parents who have faith in their children’s abilities.

To watch the inspiring Ted Talk by Steve Silberman, click here

Written by Raiza Belarmino

This entry was posted in Autism Advocacy, Autism America, Autism Awareness, Autism Education, Autism Media Coverage, Autism News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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