Autism: A History

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When you think of autism, what comes up in your head? You might think ‘badly behaved’ or on the other side, you might recall the film “Rain Man”. In fact, Autism isn’t pinned down to one vision. There used to be more than one diagnosis of Autism but it has very recently (as of DSM-V) been classed all together as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD for short) to show the wide range of diagnoses that can lead to a label of ASD. In this blog, we explore the wide history of Autism from its beginnings to today and the talking points surrounding it.


The History of Autism

Autism was first mentioned in 1911 and it was first used to describe symptoms of schizophrenia and around the 1920s to 1980s a few outdated methods to “cure” autism were around from parentectomy to shock therapy. In 1942 Leo Kanner first described autism as a social and emotional disorder. Around the time of World War 2, new research about autism came out due to a man called Hans Asperger who published a paper about how autism is a communication disorder. Asperger had people in which he called his ‘little geniuses’ and he noticed that what they exhibited was still autism, but in a way that was not documented at the time, therefore years later the term ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ sprung up as a way of diagnosing those people.


Autism has come leaps and bounds since the times of Kanner and Asperger but not without some bumps along the way. In 1997 a paper by Andrew Wakefield linking the MMR jab to autism was released and kicked off the Anti Vaccine movement around the world. This led to a renewed anti autism sentiment. In 1997 there were steps taken forward to improve SEND at schools and charities like Ambitious about Autism fight for better and improvements even today. Today there is more understanding of the condition but there are more steps to take.


If you want to know more about Autism

For more information on the history of Autism, please watch Nat Hawley’s video. Exceptional Individuals offer neurodiversity training and workshops as well as Autism quizzes. 

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