Who Was the First Person to be Diagnosed with Autism?

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Many people with autism have problems expressing their emotions and understanding social interactions, making it difficult to relate with others.

The “what was autism called 50 years ago” is a question that has been asked many times. The answer is that the first person to be diagnosed with autism was Hans Asperger, who published a paper on it in 1944.

This piece is a part of a series on the development of autism therapies.

When was autism first identified?

You may be curious in the origin of the autism diagnosis. Autism was first identified when? Early in the 20th century, the term “autistic” was first used to describe symptoms. Eugen Blueler used the phrase to describe the signs of schizophrenia in 1912. The word “autism” wasn’t used as a diagnostic diagnosis until 1943. Dr. Leo Kanner first diagnosed a social and emotional problem as autism in the first instance. Psychiatrists have previously made the diagnosis of schizophrenia based on their observations of patients who had indications of autism. Dr. Kanner utilized the diagnosis of autism with eleven of the patients he was researching at the time, but the tale started with Donald Triplett.

The First Case of Austism: Donald Triplett

First identified as having autism was Donald Triplett. He was born in Forest, Mississippi, in 1933 to a family. In their little town, his family was well-known and respected. Donald was institutionalized prior to receiving an autism diagnosis. At the time, this was usual for kids who had been given a mental illness diagnosis. It was recommended to parents of kids with behavioral disorders to put their kids in a facility apart from their relatives. About 50 miles from Donald’s home in Forest, Mississippi, a facility in Sanatorium, Mississippi, was chosen to house him. Every month, he was permitted to have his folks over. At the age of three, Donald was placed in an institution, where he spent a year. During his stay there, he grew increasingly reclusive, which worried his family. His parents took him home after a year at the facility, against the physicians’ advice. His parents were committed to learning the truth for both themselves and Donald.

Looking for Assistance for Donald

Donald’s parents started looking for professionals who might advise them on their son’s requirements. They found Dr. Leo Kanner while looking. Dr. Kanner was a professor at John Hopkins University and one of the finest child psychiatrists in the country. Donald’s father sent Dr. Kanner some notes he had made on observations of Donald’s behavioral traits during Donald’s first evaluation. These very thorough notes would be crucial in helping Dr. Kanner identify the language and behavioral patterns compatible with an autism diagnosis. According to the reports, the person was “happiest when left alone,” “drew into a shell and lived within himself,” and was “oblivious to anything around him.”

Dr. Kanner’s Findings

When Dr. Kanner finally met Donald, he made some of his own observations. Donald, he saw, used language in an explosive and apparently unimportant way. He talked of himself in the third person, repeated words and phrases that were spoken to him, and expressed his own wishes by attributing them to other people. Dr. Kanner would often refer to Eugen Blueler’s earlier usage of the term “autistic” to describe his own observations of his patients. This discovery was referred to as “autistic disorders of emotional interaction” by the author. In The Nervous Child, Dr. Kanner discussed his discoveries about autism. He gave specifics on the behavioral trends and impressions he had seen in the eleven individuals he had investigated. This discovery became crucial in the area of clinical psychiatry and made it possible for clinicians treating patients who had these traits to utilize more precise language.

An Increased Knowledge of Autism

Autism is included under a broad category of pervasive developmental disorders in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV). The topic of autism is still being investigated, debated, and discussed.

Are you interested in working with people who have autism? View our rating of the top master’s degree programs in Applied Behavior Analysis offered online.

Donald Triplett was the first person to be diagnosed with autism. His wife, Mary, is also autistic and has written a book about her life called “The Autistic Brain.” Reference: donald triplett wife.

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