Saturday, June 15, 2024

How Was Autism Treated In The 1950s

Don't Miss

A History And Timeline Of Autism

Autism Information : What Is Autism?

The history of autism begins in 1911, when Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler coined the term, using it to describe what he believed to be the childhood version of schizophrenia.Since then, our understanding of autism has evolved, culminating in the current diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and informed by many notable events impacting autism clinical research, education, and support.

The History Of The Autism Spectrum

The term, autism spectrum disorders, evolved to describe a number of conditions that share similar symptoms. These conditions range from low to high-functioning autism and include the following disorders.

Aspergerâs syndrome is a form of high-functioning autism. In 1944, an Austrian pediatrician by the name of Hans Asperger wrote about a group of children he called autistic psychopaths. Their behavior patterns were remarkably similar to the children Leo Kanner described but they had different problems with language. Asperger recorded that the children spoke like little grown-ups. He also mentioned that their motor activity was more clumsy and different to normal children.

Rettâs syndrome is named after an Austrian pediatrician, Dr Andreas Rett. In 1954, Dr Rett noticed two girls in his waiting room making the same repetitive hand-wringing motions. This caught his attention and he compared their clinical and developmental histories and discovered they were very similar. A further investigation revealed he had several other girls in his care with similar behavior patterns. After travelling through Europe and finding further cases, Dr Rett published his findings in a number of German medical journals in 1966. He later published a description of the disease in English in 1977 but little attention was paid to his findings at that time.

Can You Be Denied A Job Because Of Autism

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder can make great employees. However some individuals never have the opportunity to succeed at employment because of discrimination in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 both prohibit discrimination in employment.

Read Also: Aspergers Hereditary From Mother Or Father

Observing And Measuring The Psychotic Child

The architecture of the Maudsley Childrens Department enabled the close surveillance of children from virtually every standpoint. Children could be placed under constant observation by nurses in a centralized ward or in glass-fronted rooms. During playtimes, they remained easily observable in two bright and spacious recreation rooms. Although Anthony and Cameron provided the theoretical impetus for the psychotic clinic, the majority of the observational work was conducted by nurses. Every nurse was given the brief to closely observe the children whom she was also employed to care for. Doctors encouraged nurses to describe each childs use of language and to illustrate his or her awareness of other people and objects. As one registrar put it, he was interested in observations of autistic behaviour when absorbed in his playarm movements, expressions, verbalisations.

He dresses himself but is very slow needing constant verbal encouragement, is this the vest? he asks, is this the right way up?, etc. with every garment. He understands upside down and the wrong way up but is puzzled by inside out.

The above observation is typical of those recorded in the 1950s because of the training that nurses received.

These words were thought to be a window onto psychotic states of mind. For Anthony and Cameron, who oversaw the production of this discourse, they could reveal the thinking processes that later led to adult schizophrenia.

Infantile Autism Also Known As Kanner’s Syndrome Is A Controversial Disease

The Early History of Autism in America

A surprising new historical analysis suggests that a pioneering doctor was examining people with autism before the civil war. Infantile autism, also known as kanner’s syndrome, is a controversial disease. Along with these shifting views, its diagnostic criteria have changed as well. One of the most common treatments for autism in the 1950s is parentectomy. Yes,autism was around in the 1950â²s in the 1950s, the distinction was made between primary autism and secondary autism .2 parental factors, like negativity34 and social class2, seemed. Some of the researchers who tested electroshock therapy or hallucinogenic drugs in children with autism back in the 1950s and ’60s did so with the best of intentions, donvan says. Before people knew what it was. I had an autistic friend in the 1960s. In 1950’s the answer from dr. Here’s a glimpse of how far we’ve come.what is the prevalence of autism among children in the united states?in 1997, autism was on Before the epidemic of childhood diagnoses that began in the 1990s. That is, autism was not caused by biological factors but rather by the psychological environment in the home. Controversy arises over treatment, education, and even the diagnosis of the disease.

You May Like: Visual Schedule Speech Therapy

Beautiful Minds: The Sometimes Brutal History Of Treating Autism

Steve Silbermans Neurotribes, winner of the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction, champions neurodiversity.

BySophie McBain

Thirteen years ago, as the journalist Steve Silberman was telling a friend that he had recently met two tech entrepreneurs who had autistic children, a stranger interrupted him. Im a special education teacher. Do you realise whats going on? There is an epidemic of autism in Silicon Valley. Something terrible is happening to our children, she said. These chilling words inspired him to start investigating.

Even beyond Silicon Valley, rates of autism seem to have risen significantly. Between 1990 and 2000 the number of cases of autism in the UK registered for disability payments with the Family Fund increased 22 per cent a year. So, what is going on? Is autism caused by modern contaminants ? Or could it be, as some experts maintain, that the diagnostic criteria have widened and more people are seeking help?

When in 1939 the Nazi regime began a euthanasia programme that led to the murder of over 200,000 disabled children and adults, Asperger battled to protect his little professors. He was arrested and released repeatedly, but many of his colleagues were killed or exiled, and in 1944 his clinic was reduced to rubble by an Allied bomb. Many of Aspergers ideas were buried with it.

What Did People Think Of Autism In The 1960s Heres A Look Back At Some Of The Attempts To Understand

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

First up is an article showing how a newspaper from 1960 described autistic symptoms along with mention of the then-standard assumption of parental neglect that was believed to cause the syndrome.

Please note that that this is all old information, offered here for a historic perspective, and is not intended to reflect current thinking about autism.

Don’t Miss: Do Autistic Adults Die Early

The History Of The Early Days Of Autism

A Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler is credited with coming up with the term autism in 1911. The words autism and autistic both originate from the Greek word, autos, which means self. Autism was originally a description of the signs of schizophrenia and was used in reference to people who seemed self-absorbed and showed little interest in interacting with others.

Leo Kanner is recorded as a pioneer in the history of autism spectrum disorders. An Austrian psychiatrist and physician, he studied at the University of Berlin before emigrating to the United States in 1924. In 1930 he was selected to develop a child psychiatry service in John Hopkins Hospital. After a number of years of observations and research, he published a paper in 1943 that discussed autism in childhood.

Relationship Based Developmental Models

New Autism Treatment Tested

Relationship based models give importance to the relationships that help children reach and master early developmental milestones. These are often missed or not mastered in children with ASD. Examples of these early milestones are engagement and interest in the world, intimacy with a caregiver, intentionality of action.

Relationship Development Intervention

Relationship development intervention is a family-based treatment program for children with autism spectrum disorder . This program is based on the belief that the development of dynamic intelligence is key to improving the quality of life of children with autism.

The term multisensory integration in simple terms means the ability to use all of ones senses to accomplish a task. Occupational therapists sometimes prescribe sensory treatments for children with Autism however in general there has been little or no scientific evidence of effectiveness.

Read Also: Does Freddie Highmore Have Autism

Emergence Of Behavioral Therapy For Treating Autism

In 1980, infantile autism for the first time was listed in the in DSM-III, separated from childhood schizophrenia. In 1987, infantile autism in the DSM is replaced by a more expansive definition of autism that includes diagnostic criteria.

The Individuals with Disability Act was originally passed by congress in 1975 to ensure all children receive free and public education regardless of any disability. In 1997, an amendment was passed requiring special education for individuals with disabilities that allows students to access the general education curriculum that other students have. For the first time, this allowed children with autism spectrum disorders access to the same level of education as other children.

Special education for children with autism allows children to succeed in an education setting amongst their peers. Children with autism require comprehensive and intensive services, often combining special education, speech and language pathologists, occupational and physical therapy and others, all to work together to plan, problem-solve, and administer a childs individualized educational program . These special education programs have been shown to greatly improve quality of life and allow children to succeed.

Related resource: 5 Ways Autism Can Affect Learning

History Of Autism: When Was Autism First Diagnosed

For many conditions and disorders, it is easy to find the first point where they were initially described to this day. Their diagnostics criteria are clear. However, this has not been the case for autism. There have been several diagnoses in the past five decades, and they were less direct with several branching out.

In this article, we will talk about how autism diagnosis came to be, who contributed to what, and where we are today.

Also Check: Prognosis Mild Autism

Bizarre Withdrawal Symptoms Mark Infantile Autism Cases

The Child in the Glass Ball.

This is the title of a book published recently in Sweden, which tells about the child with infantile autism a strange condition that causes him to draw within a shell or behind an invisible wall.

He has many bizarre symptoms, which were described at the University of Utah Medical Center by one of the countrys leading authorities on autism.

He is Dr Bernard Rimland, director, US Navy Personnel Measurement Laboratory, San Diego, and faculty member of San Diego State College.

Not psychotic

The autistic child is neither psychotic nor mentally retarded, although his parents may suspect he is. He is almost invariably healthy and beautiful looking, Dr Rimland said.

Virtually without exception, the parents of autistic children are persons of superior intellectual achievement. Some autistic children have spontaneous recoveries and become outstanding adults. Many do not.

Dr Rimland said the usual forms of psychiatry dont help, although some children are helped by operant conditioning changing behavior patterns by a system of reward and punishment.

Some over-stimulated

Dr Rimland said autistic infants fall into two general groups. Some are hyper alert, over-stimulated. Others lie in an inert way, and at first mothers think they are such good babies.

Some are mute

Dr Rimland said autism occurs four times as frequently in boys as in girls, and seldom is there more than one autistic child in a family, unless there are identical twins.

Autism As A Biological Condition

1950s study children reunite after more than half a ...

The conceptualization of autism changed course in the later part of the 1970s. In 1977, Susan Folstein and Sir Michael Rutter published a study on twins in which 21 same-sex twin pairs where at least one of the twins had autism were studied. The authors found that there was a 36% concordance rate between twins, meaning that if one twin had autism the probability of the identical twin also having autism is 36%. From this result, the authors concluded there is a significant hereditary component to autism.

In addition to the twin study methodology, the breakthroughs in understanding the hereditary nature of autism occurred due to scientific discoveries in molecular genetics. Scientists had finally answered the question of the physical features of hereditary units, called genes, and how genes are passed from one generation to the next. This concept allowed a greater understanding of a multitude of diseases, such as cancer and autoimmune disorders, but also gave a different explanation to complex behavioral and developmental disorders such as autism.

Also see: Autism and Twin Studies

Read Also: Symmetra Comic Autism

Theories Of Causes Lead To Interventions

Over the years there have been many theories about the causes of autism. In the 1950s and 60s, it was believed that autism was caused by cold parenting. This led to the promotion of Holding Therapy, an approach where the mother holds their child for a prolonged time and forces eye-contact in order to remediate a presumed attachment disorder. Whilst children on the receiving end have reported terrible suffering as a result, the professionals involved overlooked the fact that the parents also had children who did not have autism.

Although this theory and intervention have long been debunked, Research Autism currently lists 123 different interventions for autism and nearly all of them are the result of a theory about a possible cause.

Over the years many theories have come and gone. One notable exception is EIBI . This approach applies ABA techniques to help children with autism. This treatment has the highest evidence base and is one of the few that was not developed from a theory of a cause. Find out more about ABA and autism.

London As A Crucible For Autism In The 1950s

The Expert:

Uta Frith

If the complete history of autism is ever written, the 1950s and 60s will be part of the dark ages. I am grateful to science historian Bonnie Evans for shining a light into one particular corner of London, where softly, softly, some dramatic changes were taking place.

In an article published in the summer issue of Bulletin of the History of Medicine, she describes how pioneers at Londons Institute of Psychiatry the Maudsley for short overturned views of mental deficiency and helped lay the foundations for how we now view autism1.

Evans article clarified for me what a triumph it was for the pioneers to create a space for autism in the psychiatric clinic, and how important their efforts were for later changes to the law.

It is hard to believe that up until then, clinicians frequently deemed children born with grave learning disabilities to be uneducable and untestable. In the 1960s, psychiatrists and psychologists at the Maudsley for the first time took a different view. They diagnosed some of these children as psychotic, a label that is now obsolete and has long been replaced by autism. This was a liberating first step that led to a huge change in the history of autism.

You May Like: Is Freddie Highmore Actually Autistic

Evolution Of The Treatments Of Autism

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Between 1960-1965 scientists investigated the use of LSD-25, a serotonin-inhibiting drug, as a treatment for autism. The idea behind using drugs to treat autism is based on the concept that autism is a personality and therefore the drugs are meant to alter the persons perceptive state . It was first used as a way to cure autism but this research was criticized and seen as abusive to the patients. Due to the severe criticism of LSD as a cure it reduced the number of studies done on it as a therapy . An early study by Bender, Goldschimdt, & Siva tried using LSD as a treatment by giving a daily maintenance dose. The children were observed to be over all happier and were in an improved mood after being given the drug Although, these studies showed positive results it is a very controversial treatment method that was developed before much was known about autism and is not used today.

1980s-1990s Currently there treatments in biochemical, Nuerosensory, psycho-dynamic and behavioral.


Applied Behavior Analysis for Children With Autism. . Retrieved November 7, 2010, from

Bender, L., Goldschmidt, L., & Siva, D.V. . LSD-25 helps schizophrenic children. American Druggist, 146, 33. Retrieved from ID=2220


What Is Causing The Spike In Autism

Autism Treatment: From “Refrigerator Mothers” to Rehab and Drugs. What’s Next?

The prevalence of autism in the United States has risen steadily since researchers first began tracking it in 2000. The rise in the rate has sparked fears of an autism epidemic. But experts say the bulk of the increase stems from a growing awareness of autism and changes to the conditions diagnostic criteria.

Read Also: Pecs Visual Schedules

Autistic Youngsters Are Children Living In Shells

Alan behaves as though other people dont exist. He shows no affection to anyone, always plays alone , and when he does talk, he refers to himself in the third person.

Objects are most valuable to him if he can make them spin or if they are small enough to pick up and drop, over and over again. He seems happy, too, when pouring water from one container to another. This activity will occupy him for hours.

S And Autism Treatment

As I mentioned previously, Mom remembered that Michael, my older autistic brother was at the Bronx Developmental Center for a little while in the mid to late 1950s. She would schlep there twice a day, once to drop him off and then to pick him up.

The state of the art thinking of the medical establishment in the 1950s and 60s was that autism was psychogenic and not biogenic in nature. That is, autism was not caused by biological factors but rather by the psychological environment in the home. The famous term, refrigerator mother was used derisively to blame parents for establishing a cold, barren environment in which their child was raised. A child in this environment would allegedly develop autism as a result. There were many flaws to this argument including evidence that siblings raised in the same environment did not uniformly develop autism.

1950s therapies

Im still researching this topic, but I found a reference on another blog that refers to parentectomy as the approach favored by Bruno Bettelheim. He believed firmly that the mother was to blame and recommended that the child be removed from that environment. Bettelheims legacy is controversial and beyond the scope of this post. He figured prominently in the debate in the 1950s through the 1960s but his ideas were discredited.

Hiness concluded that DDPT was not supported by theory or results and therefore should not be considered a credible treatment. Other sources agree.

Ibid pg 80

You May Like: Aspergers Life Span

More articles

Popular Articles

Can You Get Rid Of Autism

Can You Be Slightly Autistic