The History Of Autism
It has been more than 50 years since Leo Kanner first described his classic autistic syndrome. Since then, the results of research and clinical work have helped us learn more about autism. More and more people are being diagnosed as autistic, although we still have a long way to go in creating a world that works for autistic people.
Read our charity’s timeline below to explore the history of autism, meet some of our ‘autism pioneers’ and find out more about the incredible work they’ve done.
The Real Reasons Autism Rates Are Up In The Us
A hard look at whether the rise comes from more awareness, better diagnosisor something else
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.
Heres how researchers track autisms prevalence and explain its apparent rise.
How do clinicians diagnose autism?There is no blood test, brain scan or any other objective test that can diagnose autismalthough researchers are actively trying to develop such tests. Clinicians rely on observations of a persons behavior to diagnose the condition.
In the U.S., the criteria for diagnosing autism are laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . The criteria are problems with social communication and interactions, and restricted interests or repetitive behaviors. Both of these core features must be present in early development.
What is the prevalence of autism in the U.S.?The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68children in the U.S. have autism. The prevalence is 1 in 42 for boys and 1 in 189 for girls. These rates yield a gender ratio of about five boys for every girl.
Why We Shouldnt Use People First Language:
When looking at why we shouldnt use people first language, its impossible not to mention Jim Sinclair , as it is largely his writings in 1999 which have spearheaded the anti-people first language movement.
In his article: why I dislike people first language a subtly titled summary of why the man with the great name, hates people first language, Jim Sinclair gives three highly detailed reasons for why we should stop saying person with autism:
In the 19 years since these words were written, many have built on Sinclairs points, and now it seems the modern day argument against using person first language surrounds the idea that its not about how we see ourselves, but how we want others to see us.
Simply put, many people who are against people first language now believe that there is a fourth reason for using the opposite: if we put our diagnosis before anything else, we show that the person and the condition are inseparable. This helps to raise awareness of how autism looks and, as a result, progresses general attitudes during a time when autism is being hotly discussed.
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Famous Athletes With Autism
Among other celebrities with autism are amazing athletes. If you dont recognize some of these people, dont fret but when I researched them they are indeed celebrities within their field!
Is Lionel Messi Autistic? The Autistic Community Network out of Australia reports that he is on the spectrum. (image source: , Wikipedia
Diagnosed with Autism
- Armani Williams Racecar Driver
- Samuel Von Einem Table Tennis Star
Reported/Rumored to Have Autism
- Lionel Messi Soccer Player
Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy
Some of the most heated autism-related discussions online swirl around applied behavioral analysis, or ABA, the longest-standing therapy for children on the autism spectrum. Parents and therapists who value this therapeutic approach say it teaches valuable safety, communication and life skills. Many autistic adults especially those who have painful ABA memories from their childhoods describe the approach as normalization or conversion therapy that leads autistic people to mask their true identities. A thoughtful discussion of ABA can be found here.
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How Raisingchildrennetau Talks About Autism
On raisingchildren.net.au, we:
- use identity-first language when we talk about autism, which means we talk about autistic children and autistic teenagers
- talk about autism and use the term autism spectrum disorder only when we refer to a diagnosis
- refer to therapies and supports for autistic children, rather than treatments.
Autism Awareness Month Autism Acceptance Month And World Autism Month
For decades, the month of April was designated Autism Awareness Month but many autistic self-advocates prefer to call it Autism Acceptance Month instead.
Its not that awareness isnt important, Magro said. Its just that as a lot of kids with autism are becoming adults, they dont necessarily need awareness. They need acceptance. They need employment opportunities. … They want a shot, and they want people to take a chance on them.
Another name for April that has grown in popularity is World Autism Month. Im fine with that one too, Magro noted.
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Recent Studies From Other Countries
- The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network in the USA looked at eight-year-old children in 14 states in 2008, and found a prevalence rate of autism within those states overall of 1 in 88, with around five times as many boys as girls diagnosed .
- The National Center for Health Statistics in the USA published findings from telephone surveys of parents of children aged 6-17 undertaken in 2011-12. The report showed a prevalence rate for autism of 1 in 50, .
- A study of a 0-17 year olds resident in Stockholm between 2001-2007 found a prevalence rate of 11.5 in 1,000, very similar to the rate found other prevalence studies in Western Europe, .
- A much higher prevalence rate of 2.64% was found in a study done in South Korea, where the researchers found two thirds of the people on the autism spectrum were in the mainstream school population, and had never been diagnosed before. .
- Researchers comparing studies from different parts of the world over the past few years have come up with a more conservative estimate of 62 in 10,000. They conclude that the both the increase in estimates over time and the variability between countries and regions are likely thanks to broadening diagnostic criteria, service availability and increasing awareness of autism among professionals and the public, .
Famous People With Autism
There are many famous people with autism. They include athletes, actors, inventors, business leaders, authors and artists.
There are about 180 famous autistic people I found as part of our research on Ongigs series on neurodiversity. I felt inspired to list all these amazing people in one place!
Disclaimers: This list includes famous people with Autism who have been diagnosed and those who have been reported or rumored to fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum. I do my best to list resources for any questionable ones and welcome feedback, additions and edits! I am not an expert on autism.
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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.
Anthony Hopkins Autism Facts
In 2017, Anthony Hopkins was interviewed by the Daily Mail about his troubles with addiction and Aspergers. Anthony Hopkins autistic diagnosis, more specifically Aspergers, was diagnosed late in life. He told the Daily Mail he was a loner and said:
I dont go to parties, I dont have many friendsBut I do like people. I do like to get inside their heads.
When asked if his Aspergers helped him as an actor, he said:
I definitely look at people differently. I like to deconstruct, to pull a character apart, to work out what makes them tick and my view will not be the same as everyone else. I get offered a lot of controlling parts, maybe because thats how people see me. And maybe I am very controlled because Ive had to be. I dont question it, I just take the parts because Im an actor and thats what I do.
- Heather Kuzmich Americas Next Top Model Contestant
- Paige Layle TikTok Personality
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History Of Autism: Timeline And Diagnosis
Autism diagnosis has changed drastically over the years. Today, the DSM-5 describes the condition as autism spectrum disorder. Here is a timeline of events that lead to this diagnosis.
1911: Eugen Bleuler , a Swiss psychiatrist, was the first person to use the term autism to refer to a group of symptoms related to schizophrenia. The word autism comes from the Greek word autos, which means self.
1926: In a scientific German psychiatry and neurology journal , a child psychiatrist from Kiev, Russia, Grunya Sukhareva, wrote about six children with autistic traits.
1943: Leo Kanner, Austrian-American psychiatrist, published a paper about 11 children with high intelligence but who displayed a desire for aloneness and obsessive insistence on sameness. He later described their condition as early infantile autism.
1944: Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, described a milder form of autism, which is known as Aspergers Syndrome. He reported cases where the patients were all boys and had high intelligence but had problems in social interactions.
1967: Bruno Bettelheim, an Austrian-born psychologist, popularized the theory that autism was the result of cold and inattentive mothers, coining the term refrigerator mothers. This theory has been debunked solidly. At this time, researchers did not consider the biology or genetics involved, but only looked at the impact of life experiences.
First Accounts Of Autism: Defining Characteristics
It is likely that autism has existed through the ages, but the first ever clinical account of the disorder was published by Dr. Leo Kanner in 1943.3 Dr. Kanner, who developed the first child psychiatric service at a U.S. hospital, described a group of 11 children eight boys and three girls who had “autistic disturbances of affective contact.”4
Dr. Kanner based his report on direct observation, and much of what he set down has stood the test of time. He vividly depicted the essential features of autism, all of which are echoed in current-day diagnostic manuals. It is interesting to note that, just as in Kanner’s study, the rate of autism in males continues to be much higher than the rate in females.
Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, was working at nearly the same time as Kanner with a similar group of children on the other side of the Atlantic. A milder form of autism, Asperger syndrome, was named after him.
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How Should You Address Someone With Autism
Luckily for us, there is an answer to this debate and it comes in the form of a 3000+ survey carried out by the National Autistic Society.
In the 2015 survey it was found that, although most autistic adults like diagnosis first language, everyone and their mothers like the term person on the spectrum.
The survey also found that everybody hates functioning labels, and further responses showed that doctors like to use the term A.S.D .
Alternatively , you could ignore all these findings and simply ask the person on the spectrum how they want their diagnosis to be linked to them. I know it seems like a pretty out there thing to do, but this way you ensure that nobody gets offended and you can be certain that you wont find yourself taking sides in argument that has no real answer and shows no signs of ending soon.
Superficial Engagement With Autistic Scholarship
Whilst we recognise that Vivantis original editorial was not designed to be a comprehensive examination of the literature, we would like to note one serious limitation in its lack of engagement with the literature produced by autistic scholars addressing these issues . Our response, in part, attempts to add to that body of work. We were gratified to note Vivantis mention of the disability rights movement when providing background for the use of person-first language: bringing this to the attention of the journals readership is commendable. However, for an article that, on the surface, appears to argue for the importance of remembering that autistic people are people first , it seems a shame that the central tenet of disability rights activitynothing about us without us has been overlooked in practice within the editorials discussion.
Again, when returning to the discussion of appropriate language, Vivanti explains that:
Identity-first language is considered as an appropriate expression of this cultural shift by many self-advocates and scholars, as it counteracts the risk that separating the individual from the diagnosis perpetuates the societal view that something is wrong about the diagnosis, potentially leading to an internalization of inferiority for those who receive the diagnosis.
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Does Autism Parenting Magazine Use Person
You might therefore think we use person-first language in Autism Parenting Magazine? Actually, weve chosen to stick with the language used by each individual author. Many of our contributors are on the spectrum or parents, and we encourage everyone to use their preferred language as long as it is respectful. However, we base many of our articles on research from scientific journalsreferences and quotes from such studies necessitate inclusion of person-first language.
We also publish guidance from medical professionals who often prefer person-first language due to their professional training. It is a balancing act, with factors like readability and industry guideline adherence also playing smaller parts.
Sam Holness Hopes His Success Will Inspire Others On The Autism Spectrum
Competing in an Ironman competition is often the pinnacle of many athletes sporting lives. That grueling 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run will definitely stretch these sportsmen and women to their physical and mental limits.
However, Sam Holness, a 27-year-old triathlete, recently participated in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St. George, Utah, and in doing so, became the first person with autism to complete the race.
With the encouragement of his father, Tony, who is also his coach, the British man trained for over a year to prepare for this huge event. And on the day, Holness, who has autism spectrum disorder, had to contend with a myriad of tricky external factors that made the race all the harder.
Holness dealt with rain and lightning, which was then topped with a sandstorm. These conditions could have caused extra sensory stress for the athlete, considering his autism. But he still came in at an impressive 5 hours and 44 minutes.
While Holness shared with CBS News that he was proud of his achievement, he also added: Im happy and I cant wait to get back to training.
Tony actually gave up his job to support his sons athletic ambitions that grew when he started studying for his bachelors degree in sports science. And now, seeing his son achieve such an impressive feat, Tony is left thinking: Actually, we sit down and we think: Is it real?’
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Watkins: Forest Man First Autism Case
FOREST – He has stood 3,700 miles from home and knocked a white ball, 1.68 inches in diameter and covered with dimples, into a hole two-and-a-half times larger.
The ninth time he accomplished that it was 10 minutes till 10, he says, meaning 130 minutes before midnight, and I could still see the ball and where it was going.
He is asked the obvious question: Why go there to shoot a nine-hole score of 53 on a golf course where par is 34?
I just decided I would go on record that I, Donald Triplett, had the opportunity to play golf in the country of Iceland, he answers.
For a man who enjoys numbers and traveling and hitting balls on golf courses all over the world even now at the age of 82 it made perfect sense.
It also made him happy. A lot of things seem to do that.
Such is life now for Donald Triplett, the first person in the world to be diagnosed with autism, a neurological disorder.
His story is chronicled in a new book, In A Different Key: The Story of Autism written by John Donvan and Caren Zucker, both of ABC News. Donvan is a longtime correspondent, and Zucker is a veteran producer. Zucker has a 21-year-old son with autism.
Donvan and Zucker will speak and sign copies of their book Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Millsaps Colleges Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex in Jackson.
Kanner wrote about Case 1, Donald T in the article Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.
The Tripletts were no ordinary couple.
Donald also joined Lambda Chi Alpha.
Famous Actors With Autism
There are a number of celebrities with autism. Lets start with actors:
Is Sir Anthony Hopkins Autistic? According to Mercury News, he received a late-in-life diagnosis of Aspergers.
Diagnosed with Autism
- Dan Aykroyd Comedic Actor
- Rachel Barcellona Actress starring in a new short film called Mandys Voice, about a non-speaking autistic teenager.
Always great to see my friend, Rachel Barcellona! She is autistic but is now starring in , a short film about a girl who is non-verbal.
- Sir Anthony Hopkins Actor
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