Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), generally known as autism, is defined as a complex developmental disorder. Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive and restrictive behaviours. The impact and symptoms of ASD vary from person to person.
Autism is said to impact 1 in 100 people in the UK.
The history of autism spectrum disorder:
Autism was first researched in detail by Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner in the 1940s. The two researchers started independent research to study the condition and the causes behind it. Asperger’s research was focused on very able children, while Kanner targeted children who displayed more ‘severe’ autism symptoms. Their reviews laid the foundation of what we know about autism today and were used by doctors for the next 30 years.
Chronological history of autism
1908: Eugen Bleuler
The condition was termed “autism” in 1908 by Eugen Bleuler.
1943: The contribution of Leo Kanner
Leo Kanner was an American child psychiatrist who studied 11 children during his research on Autism in 1943. These children exhibited unique behaviours such as finding social interaction and adapting to changes in routines challenging. These children were found to be extremely sensitive to various stimuli such as sound and had allergies to food. The majority of these children also had echolalia, and they used to spontaneous activities difficult. However, many of these children had good memory and high intellectual potential.
1944: The contribution of Hans Asperger
Hans Asperger was another scientist who conducted independent research on another group of children in 1944 to study Autism. This group also resembled the group of children Kanner was examining. However, the children in this group didn’t exhibit echolalia; instead, they spoke like adults. His group of children were clumsy as compared to other children and were different in their motor skills.
1960: The contribution of Bruno Bettelheim
In the later years, Bruno Bettelheim did his own research to explore how therapy sessions affect children with autism symptoms. According to Bettelheim, children with unsympathetic mothers often develop autism. A part of his research included separating children from their parents. He collaborated with Kanner to prove his hypothesis showing the frigid parenting leads to autism.
1964: The contribution of Bernard Rimland
Bernard Rimland, a psychologist with two autistic children, disagreed with Bettelheim. According to Rimland, parenting doesn’t have anything to do with autism. Bernard Rimland published Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior in 1964.
1980: The contribution of Erica Foundation
People became generally aware of the autism spectrum disorder in the 1970s. During the first half of the 1980s, The Erica Foundation started educating and therapizing children who exhibit psychotic behavior. However, most of the parents still considered autism psychosis or mental retardation.
1980: Hans Asperger’s work translated
Asperger’s work was translated to English in the 1980s, and autism research gained momentum. His work got published and cleared various misconceptions around the disorder. His research revealed that frigid parenting doesn’t cause autism to develop. The condition is rather caused by neurological disturbances and other genetic ailments.
1980: The contribution of Lorna Wing and Christopher Gillberg
Lorna Wing and Christopher Gillberg came up with the Wing’s triad of a disturbed mutual contact, disturbed mutual communication, and limited imagination while working at BNK Children’s Neuro-Psychiatric Clinic in Sweden in the 1980s. The triad was further expanded to a square with the addition of another factor, that is, limited planning ability.
1981: The contribution of Ole Ivar Lovaas
Ole Ivar Lovaas further analyzed the behavior of children with autism and their treatment. In 1981, he suggested that the amount of therapy time and its intensity should be increased to up to 40 hours weekly to relieve the symptoms. He also wrote “Teaching Developmentally Disabled Children: The Me Book” the same year. Lovaas wrote, Teaching Individuals With Developmental Delays: Basic Intervention Techniques In 2002.
Although much scientific progress has been made, there is much more to learn about the causes, diagnosis and potential treatment methods of autism. Current research is focused on finding genes that autistic people share. Other research includes trying to find differences in brain activity that are associated with autistic people.