When my two boys were first diagnosed with Autism. I read everything I could possibly find on Autism. One story I read
has always haunted me a little. It was the story about the first account of a young autistic boy.
A Frenchman by the name of Itard writes about a young boy around the age of 12 who had been living in a Forest until he
was captured in January 1800. Itard named the boy Victor who seemed to be very self-absorbed and could not verbally communicate.
It wasn’t until over a century later that the word Autism was first used by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugene Bleuler in 1911 to
describe individuals who withdrew from social interaction with others. Bleuler derived the word Autism from the Greek word
“Autos,” which means “self.”
Then not again until 1943, when Autism came to the forefront. That is when a psychiatrist by the name of Leo Kanner observed the behavior of 11 children at the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA.
Kanner at this time invented a new category, which he called “Early Infantile Autism”, which sometimes is referred as Kanner Syndrome.
At about the same time as Kanner was doing his study at John Hopkins Hospital. There was a Doctor in Vienna, Austria by the name of Dr. Hans Asperger who published a paper in 1944 who described a disorder very much like Kanner’s “early infantile autism.” This condition was later termed Asperger Syndrome.
Because of World War II Dr. Asperger’s work was not available to the public and it was not until 1997 that his findings were given official recognition.
The 1950s and 1960s were a very dark period for parents and (especially mothers) of children with Autism. At that time the
popular thought was that Autism was caused due to the coldness of their mothers. This was the time that the term “refrigerator mother” was coined.
Thankfully, in the early part of the 1960s, members of the medical community like Dr. Bernard Rimland and Dr. Eric Schopler were doing their own research. During this time Dr. Rimland presented his own study showing evidence that Autism was a biological condition rather than a psychological one.
By the 1990s, researchers were focusing on the genetic component of Autism, focusing specifically on chromosome 15. These studies have revealed a connection between Autism and people with irregularities on chromosome 15.
Now and in the future there will be more and more studies focusing on the genetic component of Autism. Right now in the beginning of 2007, there are many advancements in Autism and I predict we will be seeing quite abit of progress in the next 10 years.
The History of Autism has been both complex and controversial. Many people think that Autism is a modern disorder but as you have read it has dated back to the early 1800s. In some ways it seems that there has not been very much progress in those 200 years but I feel that we are on the verge of a breakthrough with Autism.