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Did You Know These
Facts About Autism?

By Rachel Evans

There have been many conditions thought history that have been mistaken for something else, and before the human mind was understood, many with mental disabilities were placed in jail. They were deemed a threat and were then heavily medicated.

Today, we have a greater understanding of what some people go through, and although different from everyone else, we know there is an underlying reason for it. We know do our best to help people like this instead of persecuting them.

When looking back through the history of autism, it is obvious that though it was given a name in the early part of the 1900s, it was largely misunderstood by people for a long time.

Some believe that autism was first noticed as a condition around 1911, but it wasn’t really anything other than a theory at that time. A Swiss psychiatrist by the name of Eugen Bleuler is thought to be the first to use the term.

The word ‘autism’ meant ‘an escape from reality’ and was based on behaviors he observed in adults and it was attributed to schizophrenia. Though that was false and misleading, it was a step closer to putting a name to a condition that was largely misunderstood.

New information was found from one of the earliest recorded studies of children with autism. From 1938 to the year 1943, a doctor by the name of Leo Kanner studied the behaviors of eleven autistic children.

The children he chose to study were ones that seem to withdraw from interaction with others as early as age one. The type of autism that he recorded and named was what would be considered ‘classic autism’ and is often referred to as Kanner’s Syndrome.

These children were thought to have different characteristics than those classified as mentally retarded. However, at this time it was still largely misunderstood.

Some believed parents were to blame, and these children were often removed from the home and placed with others to see if they would ‘recover.’

It wasn’t until the 1960s when the disorder was finally being studied and understood for what it really is and the impacts it has on a person. The finger pointing at parents of autistic children reduced as understanding grew, but there was and still is in some cases a lot of misinformation about autism, and many parents feel the need to defend themselves, as if they’ve ‘done something’ to their child.

Higher functioning autistic children and adults are often said to have Asperger’s. This condition was documented by Hans Asperger in 1944, but was not something that gained wider awareness until later in the 1980s.

He described this condition as ‘autistic psychopaths’ and some of the blame was put on the mothers of these children, claiming that they were cold and heartless. Though we know today that this is not true, it was widely accepted at the time.

Since then, PDD (pervasive development disorder) has been studied and is now more understood. PDD is a blanket term for the spectrum of autistic disorders that are now known today.

The history of autism is a rough one, but that can be said about many of the conditions that affect the mind and the personality. Though more understanding exists today, there is much that is still misunderstood.

Perhaps the most important thing is that parents are no longer blamed for the conditions of autism, and that more treatments are available to help a child with this condition. Recently thinking suggests Autism is an auto-immune condition, and that it can be genetic.

There is no cure, but there are programs that can increase communication and socialization skills in some children and adults.

Hopefully by understanding the history of autism we can take steps to progress treatment programs further.

Author - Rachel Evans

The Essential Guide to Autism