History of Autism Treatment

Photo of author


Posted On

Autism affects 1 in 68 children, and there is no effective treatment of the condition. Researchers at Tel-Aviv University have found a potential breakthrough that could lead to new treatments for the debilitating disorder.

The “history of autism pdf” is a history of the treatment for autism. It includes information about how it was discovered and when it first appeared.

Summary of Contents

Timeline: Significant Historical Developments in Autism Treatment Spectrum disorders in autism Early 20th-century definitions of autism early approaches to treatment As a Social and Emotional Disorder, Autism Development of Children and Autism The Biological Basis of Autism: Treatment with Behavioral Therapies Psychedelic medications for Autism Behavioral Therapy’s Development for the Treatment of Autism Behavior Analysis in Practice in the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Timeline: Significant Historical Developments in Autism Treatment

  • 1911 marks the year when Eugen Bleuler used the word “autism” to refer to schizophrenic symptoms.
  • Electroconvulsive treatment was originally utilized to treat autistic symptoms in the 1920s.
  • Dietary limitations for the treatment of autism first appeared in the 1920s.
  • Leo Kanner was the first to describe autism as a social and emotional condition in 1943.
  • 1944 – Hans Asperger publishes a paper on autism as a kind of childhood apraxia of speech.
  • Bruno Bettelheim develops the refrigerator mother idea in the 1950s.
  • 1950s – Parentectomy is a typical autism treatment strategy.
  • Temple Grandin creates a squeeze machine for autistic kids in the 1970s.
  • Shock therapy and punitive measures were the norm for autism treatment in the 1970s.
  • Guy Bérard creates auditory integration training in the 1970s to cure autism
  • Initially published in 1977, Susan Folstein and Michael Rutter’s twin research on autism.
  • Pharmaceutical therapies for autism became the primary form of therapy in the 1970s.
  • 1980 – The DSM-III creates a separate category for infantile autism.
  • 1987 – The DSM is extended to include diagnostic criteria for autism.
  • Ivar Lovass creates an intensive behavioral treatment for autistic kids in 1987.
  • Emergency special education programs for autistic youngsters in 1997
  • DSM-classification V’s of autism spectrum disorders in 2013

See also: What are the 10 autism spectrum disorder (ASD) Signs that are Most Common?

Definition of Autism Spectrum Disorders

A variety of abnormalities of brain development are referred to as autism spectrum disorder These conditions—commonly known as autism—are marked by issues with social skills verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive motions, delayed child development, and other special abilities and limitations. The term “autism spectrum disorder” alludes to the variety in how each autistic person presents their symptoms and strengths.

See also: What Was Autism Called Before?

Autism spectrum disorder theory is a relatively recent development. Prior to 2013, Asperger’s syndrome and Kanner’s syndrome were considered to be separate condition classifications that required separate therapies. The American Psychiatric Association consolidated subcategories of autism and associated problems into one cohesive category with varying features and severity in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013. It is now known that autism is a spectrum disorder with overlapping symptoms brought on by several complicated genetic and environmental variables. This evolution in categorization and causation is similar to how treatment modalities for autistic people have evolved. Treatments have evolved throughout the last century as a result of new philosophical perspectives, biological, sociological, and behavioral research advancements, as well as shifting theoretical preconceptions.

In the early 20th century, autism

A doctor from Switzerland named Eugen Bleuler first used the word “autism” in historical writing in 1911 to refer to a distinctive group of symptoms that were previously only understood to be signs of schizophrenia. The term autism, which derives from the Greek word autos, was first used to characterize the severe social detachment that was typical of mental disorders that manifested as psychosis. Autism was not recognized as a separate condition in any diagnostic handbook until 1980, despite the fact that it is now understood that schizophrenia and autism are two different disorders.

Early Intervention Techniques

Electroshock Treatment

Because of its association with severe psychiatric illnesses, one of the first treatment approaches for autism was Electroshock Treatment (ECT). Historically an extremely controversial treatment approach, ECT methods have improved and are currently used to treat psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. ECT involves passing small electric currents through the brain to intentionally trigger a brief seizure. The resulting seizure episode is hypothesized to change brain chemistry in a way that reduces mental health symptoms such as severe agitation and self-destructive behaviors. ECT is still used in some cases of autism spectrum disorder, although this is becoming increasingly rare as behavioral therapies have demonstrated greater efficacy.


One school of thinking, which dates back to the 1920s, holds that autism is brought on by harmful dietary elements and may be addressed by altering a child’s diet. Even if the precise biochemical dietary components and nutrition guidelines have altered since then, some autism researchers, doctors, and parents continue to treat autistic children with rigid, restricted diets. It has been hypothesized that a diet devoid of casein and gluten, two proteins present in milk and wheat products respectively, might lessen a child’s symptoms of autism. Some believe that these proteins may cause autism by seeping from the gastrointestinal system and getting to the brain. Restrictive diets are not generally suggested as a form of therapy for autism since there is a lack of consensus over the strength of the data supporting them.

As a Social and Emotional Disorder, Autism

American child psychiatrist Dr. Leo Kanner initially described autism as a social and emotional condition in 1943. In an article titled Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact that was published in the journal Nervous Child, Kanner presents a unique condition that is characterized by children who are extremely brilliant but have a tendency to socially retreat and emotional restrictions.

Who received an autism diagnosis for the first time?

Hans Asperger was identifying a distinct kind of autism in Germany as this was happening across the Atlantic. In his 1944 essay on autistic psychopathology, Asperger defined autism as a condition affecting kids with average intellect who struggle with their social and communicative abilities. Children with Asperger’s condition, which was formerly considered to be a lesser type of autism but is now more popularly recognized as, tend to have comparable difficulties with social interaction but do not often experience the same difficulties with language development as those with Kanner’s disease.

Development of Children and Autism

See also: How Does Autism Develop in Children?

The idea that autism is brought on by children’s poor social and emotional development initially focused on the parents as the disease’s primary causes. At the time, it was unknown how much heredity affected mental problems, much alone that intricate genetic and environmental influences may also play a role. One of the first researchers to propose this hypothesis was Bruno Bettelheim of the University of Chicago in the 1950s, who claimed that autism is a psychiatric disorder brought on by indifferent mothers who showed little concern for their offspring. Because it was believed that moms were particularly chilly to their children, the “Refrigerator Mother Theory” was developed, and the therapeutic approach utilized was removing the kid from their homes.

Parentectomy, or the prolonged separation of a kid from their parents, was formerly believed to counteract the protective mechanism developed in children of unloving mothers. After it was discovered that Bettelheim had no psychoanalytic training, his reputation was damaged. Despite some psychoanalytic theorists still advocating Bettelheim’s ideas, research has not discovered any proof that mother-child estrangement is connected to the emergence of autism.

Another psychoanalytic therapy based on the idea that a disturbed parent-child connection causes autism is holding therapy. As part of the therapy, the kid is physically restrained by the caregiver in a constrictive setting while being made to look at the caregiver. It is believed that the physical restriction and eye contact would strengthen the caregiver-child bond. Therapy is not supported by any evidence as a helpful method of care, and it may even be very harmful to the kid.

A person with a high-functioning type of autism named Temple Grandin created a device that provided her body pressure that she could fully regulate. She was able to experience pressure and contact without having to be touched by someone else, which she found uncomfortable. Because the kid has complete control over the machine, it is less risky than holding treatment, but there is no concrete proof that it helps with autistic symptoms.

Behavior Therapy for the Treatment of Autism


Aversive Penalty

Forms of Aversive Penalty are common parenting tactics, such as placing a child in time out when they misbehave. The theory is that by punishing a child for unwanted behavior, the child will associate the behavior with the punishment and no longer perform that behavior. However, this type of punishment can be taken to varying degrees.

Autism wasn’t recognized in the 1970s as a complicated genetic and environmental developmental condition; rather, it was still seen as a behavioral issue. Therefore, it was thought that applying punishment might train kids to stop acting out severe symptoms of the illness, such violence and disassociation. At that time, a common treatment approach for autism was shock therapy, in which the kid would get an electric shock for engaging in an undesirable behavior. It was believed that the unpleasant but non-lethal shock would cause aversive conditioning to make the behavior less frequent. Many parents strongly support the therapy since it has shown efficacy in lowering undesirable behaviors while having few adverse effects. But as late as 2016, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) suggested banning the procedure due to moral reservations about possible damage to the kid.

See also: Five Simple Behavior Modification Techniques for Children with Autism

Training on Auditory Integration (AIT)

Training on Auditory Integration (AIT) for treating autism was first developed by Guy Bérard, a French physician, in the late 1970s. However, this technique was not commonly recognized until 1991 when a mother of a child of autism published a book, The Sound of a Miracle (Stehli, 1991), citing that AIT had cured her son’s disorder.

The foundation of AIT is the idea that children with autism exhibit aggressive behaviors because of a hypersensitivity to sounds. The patient will be exposed to a wide range of noises over the course of many half-hour sessions. The idea behind this treatment is to get the patient acclimated to various auditory stimuli so they would start to sound normal. AIT therapy, according to its proponents, improves social behaviors, memory, cognition, and aberrant behaviors in autistic children.

The effectiveness of AIT as a therapy for autism spectrum disorders is not supported by scientific data. The most current study on the subject, which compared AIT to background classroom noise, was published in 2000. The authors came to the conclusion that AIT had no beneficial clinical or educational effects on certain autistic youngsters. Additionally, the Committee on Children with Disabilities of the American Academy of Pediatrics made a statement on the use of AIT in children in 1998, noting that “present available material does not support the assertions of proponents that these therapies are effective.”

The Biological Basis of Autism

Later in the 1970s, the way autism was thought of underwent a transformation. Susan Folstein and Sir Michael Rutter published a research on twins in 1977 that looked at 21 sets of same-sex twins where at least one twin had autism. The scientists discovered a 36% concordance rate (also known as the heritability statistic) amongst twins, which means that the likelihood of the identical twin also having autism is 36% if one twin has the disorder. The scientists concluded that there is a substantial genetic component to autism based on this finding.

The scientific advances in molecular genetics, in addition to the twin research approach, contributed to the advancements in understanding the hereditary basis of autism. The physical characteristics of hereditary units, known as genes, and how genes are carried from one generation to the next have now been clarified by scientists. This idea provided a new explanation for complicated behavioral and developmental abnormalities like autism as well as a better knowledge of many illnesses, including cancer and autoimmune diseases.

See also: Twin Studies and Autism

Treatment strategies have significantly evolved as a result of the development of biological explanations of autism. Biological therapies, such as medicines, were thought to be the most effective treatments for biological disorders. Additionally, the use of psychotropic drugs for behavioral problems has grown in favor among psychiatrists. Other homeopathic or complementary medical treatments were also growing in popularity at the same time.

Secretin, a hormone that aids in digestion, is one of these alternative remedies. Secretin injections are used to diagnose gastrointestinal issues like ulcers or pancreatic illness, but the FDA has not cleared them for any other use. Secretin became a popular kind of therapy when it was suggested in the 1920s that autism is brought on by harmful substances seeping into the gastrointestinal tract by one mother.

There is no solid evidence to support the claim that secretin may lessen any behavioral symptoms associated with autism spectrum condition. In actuality, very little study on the therapy has shown any clinically meaningful variations between secretin therapies and a placebo. Secretin injections are still used as a therapy for pediatric autism despite the paucity of supporting data, according to well-known specialists in the area.

Psychedelic medications for Autism

Aggression, impatience, and self-harming behaviors are just a few of the behavioral signs of autism spectrum disorders that may be reduced with pharmaceutical therapies. The most effective behavioral therapy for autism spectrum disorders, Behavior Analysis in Practice (ABA), may be made more effective by pharmacological treatments by lowering these bothersome behaviors.

The first drug recognized by the FDA for the treatment of symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders is risperidone (Risperdal). Risperidone, which is known to operate on dopamine receptors, has been proven in several trials to significantly reduce the incidence of tantrums, violent behaviors, self-injury, and other troublesome behaviors in autistic children. Risperidone’s most frequent side effects include increased hunger, dry mouth, and dizziness.

Another FDA-approved treatment for autistic children is aripiprazole (Abilify), which is intended to lessen the irritability that comes with the condition. Although the precise mechanism of action is yet unclear, it is believed to operate as a partial agonist on both serotonin and dopamine receptors. Aripiprazole has been shown to considerably reduce hyperactivity and increase quality of life in addition to reducing the symptoms of irritability in kids with autism. Sedation and weight gain are two of the medication’s somewhat typical adverse effects.

Before the FDA approved risperidone and aripiprazole, the atypical (second generation) antipsychotic clozapine (Clozaril, Clopine) was often used to treat the symptoms of autism. Among the many ways that clozapine is used to treat schizophrenia is to lessen aggressive and suicidal tendencies. Children’s days with aggressiveness and the quantity of psychotropic drugs required to manage negative behaviors are both dramatically decreased while using clozapine, a treatment for autism spectrum disorders. Clozapine is seldom used as a first-line therapy for children since it causes serious adverse effects such severe weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

Dopamine antagonist haloperidol, sometimes referred to as Haldol, is used to treat a number of neurological and mental conditions, such as schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, and hallucinations. Additionally, a number of studies suggest that haloperidol helps children with autism who are exhibiting social disengagement and hyperactivity. Haloperidol should only be taken under under medical supervision since long-term usage may have serious tardive dyskinesia (involuntary muscle movements) adverse effects.

Behavioral Therapy’s Development for the Treatment of Autism

The DSM-III initially recognized infantile autism in 1980, separating it from childhood schizophrenia. A broader definition of autism that incorporates diagnostic criteria took the role of infantile autism in the DSM in 1987.

Congress first enacted the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) in 1975 to guarantee that all students, regardless of handicap, get a free public education. A law mandating special education for people with impairments was established in 1997, allowing students with disabilities access to the same general education curriculum as other pupils. This gave children with autism spectrum disorders access to the same level of schooling as regular kids for the first time.

Children with autism may excel in a classroom environment alongside their classmates thanks to special education. Children with autism need extensive and intense assistance, often combining special education, speech and language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, and others to collaborate on the development of a child’s unique educational program and to address problems (IEP). It has been shown that these special education programs significantly raise quality of life and promote academic achievement in kids.

Informational link: 5 Ways Autism Can Affect Learning

the condition of autism spectrum disorder and current methods of care

The landscape of autism therapy has altered in two significant ways as a result of the reconceptualization of autism. The first was the concept that autism is a social and emotional problem different from other mental illnesses and should be treated as such. The second was the realization that autism is a social and emotional disorder unique from other mental illnesses and should be treated as such.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, males are more likely than girls to have autism spectrum disorders, which affect 1 out of every 68 children. Autism may be diagnosed in infants as young as 18 months, even though the most noticeable symptoms usually start to show between the ages of 2 and 3. Unfortunately, the majority of kids are not given a diagnosis until they are four.

The consequences of autism are significantly improved by early diagnosis and intervention for children with the illness. The CDC advises parents to watch early signs and symptoms and bring any concerns to the pediatrician’s notice. The CDC also advises frequent examinations of young children for indicators of autism.

Behavior Analysis in Practice

Behavior Analysis in Practice (ABA) is the most successful evidence-based treatment approach for autism spectrum disorder. ABA is a behavioral learning program with theories from behavioral psychology that reinforces and encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders. In addition, ABA teaches children important new skills and how to apply those skills to real situations.

After publishing Behavioral Treatment and Normal Educational and Intellectual Functioning in Young Autistic Children in 1987, psychologist Ivar Lovaas of the University of California, Los Angeles, gained recognition as the founder of ABA treatment. Children in the research underwent intense behavioral therapy for two to six years at a rate of 40 hours per week, according to Lovaas’s beliefs and techniques. The outcomes were startling. More than 90% of the youngsters who got ABA saw significant improvements in their symptoms, including socializing, and had notable cognitive gains.

Currently, ABA is regarded as the gold standard for treating autistic spectrum illnesses in children behaviorally. Individuals interested in a career in ABA treatment may choose from a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate educational programs. But before engaging in ABA treatment, all practitioners must get a certification, regardless of their level of schooling. Board Certified Behavioral Analyst, certified autism specialist Registered Behavior Technician and Autism certifications that complement another form of advanced degree are just a few examples of certificate programs.

The following resources will help you learn more about ABA:

Key components of Behavior Analysis in Practice Top 25 Behavior Analysis in Practice Programs Overview of ABA Certification Introduction to Autism

Through Elizabeth Sinclair by Danelle Wilbraham, who edited

Autism was not recognized as a disorder until the late 1960s. There is no single cause for autism, but there are many theories. The most popular theory is that autism is caused by a genetic mutation. Reference: what was autism called 50 years ago.

Related Tags

  • history of autism in education
  • autism in ancient history
  • how was autism treated in the 1950s
  • autism in the 1800s
  • electroconvulsive therapy autism

Related Content

What is the Evolution of Autism Genes?

A new study looks at how autism genes have changed over time, providing insights into the evolution of the condition. ...

Is ABA Therapy Covered by Medicaid?

ABA therapy is a type of treatment that can help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is covered by ...

What is Autism Shadow Syndrome?

A new study sheds light on a little-known condition that may be affecting more people with autism than previously thought. ...