It is said that autism was a phrase coined in the 1950s. Today, it describes a specific set of traits and characteristics associated to brain development disorders.
This piece is a part of a series on the development of autism therapies.
For some time now, our culture has been impacted by the signs and traits of autism. Although early infantile autism was not officially diagnosed until 1943, the illness had already been given several names prior to then. Although the descriptions of autistic symptoms varied, it was generally accepted that anyone who displayed them would be classified as having “mental retardation.”
Research on mental retardation by Dr. Langdon Down
Dr. John Langdon Down, the first to identify Down’s Syndrome, conducted studies on mental retardation in 1877. In order to explain symptoms that would be comparable to what we observe in people with autism today, he adopted the term “developmental retardation.” Due to this, he started referring to individuals who showed signs of autism but still had outstanding talents that would be regarded as “genius” as “idiot savants.” Many of the talents that were shown are often associated with genius in the arts, music, or math.
Mental Retardation Categories According to Dr. Down
Dr. Down categorized three types of mental impairment. In the first group, known as “congenital,” inherited causes accounted for the majority of diagnoses of mental retardation. Most of his patients fell into this group. The second classification was known as “accidental,” and it included illnesses or injuries that manifested late in pregnancy, during delivery, or after delivery. The word “developmental” was used to describe a third group, which had people who couldn’t be included in any of the other categories. They had symptoms that were distinct from those in the earlier groups. People in this category showed symptoms that would be considered typical of autistic people today.
Schizophrenia and Autism
In 1911, Eugen Bleuler used the terminology ‘autistic’ to describe symptoms of schizophrenia. He also described those schizophrenic patients with autistic symptoms as having a withdrawal from reality. Autism has since been regarded as a separate distinction, apart from schizophrenia. It is considered to be on a continuum of various disorders that have overlapping neurodevelopmental and genetics charateristics, according to one hypothesis. However, another hypothesis claims that the two disorders, Schizophrenia and Autism, are very distinct according to genetic data. In reality, the conversation about various developmental disorders continues as we attempt to understand autism and its origin. In 1927, Eugene Minkowski, a student of Bleuler, further defined autism as the ‘trouble generator’ of schizophrenia. He described patients with this disorder as having a lack of connectedness or unity with people and thus created a disturbance in the structure of the self.
As a diagnosis, autism
Despite the widespread usage of the autistic phrase, it wasn’t until 1943 and then again in 1944 that Hans Asperger made the diagnosis of autism. The discovery of Kanner’s condition, sometimes known as early infantile autism, is what Kanner would refer to as. Asperger would refer to his finding, which shared symptoms with Kanner’s definition of autism, as Asperger’s syndrome. Along with the same traits of Autism, Asperger’s patients showed greater linguistic abilities and above average intellectual comprehension.
Moving in a positive direction
It is simple to see that the shift away from some of the more derogatory words of the past and toward more correct terminology for the diagnosis of autism. Because it is so well-known, autism is regularly covered in the news. We may handle the debates in a welcome way for the future as we work toward inclusion for everyone by disclosing some of the historical portrayals of autism.
Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.