Now Reading: The History Of Autism

The History Of Autism

I found this amazing infographic on the website

The original page where I found this infographic is  Go check it out because there’s tons of other info down at the bottom of that page…

Also on the bottom of the page it says “Share this infographic on your site” so that is what I
am doing…



Class is now in session…




Over the past century, the definition of autism and the
array of disorders it encompasses has not only changed but also been subject to
gross misunderstanding. Let’s take a look at a short history of autism, as well
as current diagnosis rates and information.



Autism is an umbrella term for autism spectrum disorder,
which is characterized by: (5)

  • Constant
    problems with social communication and interaction across a variety of
  • Repetitive,
    restricted patterns of behavior, activities and interests
  • Early-onset
    emergence of symptoms (typically in the first two years of life)
  • Symptoms
    that cause major impairment in social, educational or other important
    areas of functioning

It’s called a spectrum because of the wide range of symptoms
and impairment levels children can have. Some are only mildly affected by their
symptoms, while other children are severely disabled.


The Greek root of the word “autism” is “autos,” meaning
“self.” Individuals with autism are generally withdrawn from social and
emotional interaction, giving rise to the term. (1)





Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler first uses the term in
reference to certain symptoms of schizophrenia. (1)



Stemming from the belief that autism symptoms are caused by
diet (including those high in gluten), biochemical treatments are used, and
diet supplements and restrictions are put in place for children with autism.



Electroconvulsive therapy is first used to try to correct
antisocial and self-destructive behavior. Though controversial, this type of
treatment is still used in rare cases today. (3)



“Autism” is first used to describe children who experience
emotional or social issues. (1)



A definition for autism is put in place by child
psychiatrist Leo Kanner. He describes autism as “lack of affective contact,
fascination with objects, desire for sameness and non-communicative language
before 30 months of age.” (2)



German scientist Hans Asperger detects a condition with
similar afflictions that is now called “Asperger’s syndrome.” There is still
believed to be a link between autism and schizophrenia. (1, 2)



Autism is falsely suspected of being caused by cold and
uncaring mothers. Parentectomy, or the removal of the afflicted child from his
or her parents for long periods of time, is utilized for treatment by a doctor
in a study. (3)



Various treatments are tested, but there is still a limited
understanding of what helps patients. Pain and punishment are still inflicted
on children to try to correct antisocial behavior. The use of LSD is
implemented. As a serotonin inhibitor, it is believed that altering the
patient’s state of perception will help alleviate symptoms. (1, 3)



Bernard Rimland, an American psychologist, establishes the
Autism Society of America, one of the first autism advocacy groups. (2)



Early forms of behavioral therapy are used primarily in the
treatment of children with autism, and autism is finally categorized separately
from schizophrenia. Neurosensory therapy is introduced, as researchers and
doctors begin to believe that sensitivity to auditory stimulation is
responsible for some antisocial behavior. (1, 2, 3)


Holding therapy, in which a child is restrained and forced to perform various
social reactions like maintaining eye contact, is used. (3)



The term “autism spectrum disorder” is used, and specific
tools for diagnosing the severity of a child’s case are developed. Applied
behavioral therapy and psycho-dynamic therapies are typically used to treat
children with autism. (1, 3)




Due to a more thorough understanding of the disorder and
effective treatments for its symptoms, more children are getting the help they
need to live more social, emotionally fulfilling lives. We now understand a lot
more about the disorder and who it affects.


1 in 68

Estimated number of children affected by an autism spectrum
disorder. For boys, the number is 1 in 42. (4)



Likelihood that a person will have a second child with
autism if they already have one (4)


1 in 10

Number of children with autism who also have Down syndrome
or another chromosomal disorder (4)


2 years

Age at which a diagnosis of autism is typically reliable.
Most children are not diagnosed until they are 4 years old. (4)

Unfortunately, along with a more thorough understanding of
autism has come a boom of diagnoses and fear regarding the cause of the



Increase in autism spectrum disorder prevalence between 2002
and 2010 (4)





Hope you enjoyed that thorough “History Of Autism”

Class dismissed!



Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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15 People Replies to “The History Of Autism”


    "Some are only mildly affected by their symptoms, while other children are severely disabled." This is a fairly common incorrect description of autism. NOBODY on the autism spectrum is "only mildly affected". EVERYONE diagnosed on the autism spectrum is disabled. Please consult the DSM5 and you will see that autism, anywhere on the spectrum, is considered a serious disability. Why is this important? Because the public has been lead to believe by people who exploit the disabled, that part of the autism spectrum is made up of merely odd ball types with special skills able to fake being normal. It is just not true. Autism is not a mere personality quirk. This mis-characterization harms the disabled. If you are autistic, then you are disabled. Period. Some are more higher functioning than others, but they are not a separate class of almost-normals. And there is no medical definition of High Functioning Autism. That is only a feel-good paint job. Please look it up.

  2. Anonymous

    Is it just me or are there only the negative points of autism shown?

  3. Anonymous

    This was awesome!!!! Thanks so much for the research and the time it took to post it. I will share it with others who have trouble understanding a lot about autism. <3

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing it.. 🙂

  5. Anonymous

    Pretty accurate, but I believe holding therapy was popular way before the 1990s…?

  6. Anonymous

    thank you. for sharing. glad to see science has come a long way.

  7. Anonymous

    Ugh, parents need to get IN that bubble.

    1. Anonymous

      even when parents do get IN that bubble it doesn't mean others can .

    2. Anonymous

      …and heartbreakingly, some times they can't…

  8. Does the link to the university blog really support the time of the diet restrictions (1920s)?

    I thought there might be more mass-produced and processed food around the time of the First World War…

    And Bernard Rimland looks so young!

    1. You're correct. I found the source, and it's definitely different than quoted in the infographic.

  9. Mark G.

    Nice Infographic — However, it's a shame that on the 1965 date that they used a picture of Dr. Stephen Edelson (current ARI director) instead of a picture of Dr. Bernard Rimland.

    1. Had not looked at Edelson's face for some 2 years (since about 2011), so did not immediately catch it. The general face did suggest "Rimland" to me, probably closer to the 1970s or the 1980s.

  10. Anonymous

    Thank you!

  11. Anonymous

    Thanks for was very informative.