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Revealing Autism

Chapter 1

The History of Autism


The term autism is taken from the Greek "autos" (closed in on oneself and was used for the first time in psychiatry in 1906 by Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist, who used it in connection with schizophrenic patients to describe their isolation from the rest of the world. In 1943, Leo Kanner, an Austrian doctor working in the United States used the term for the first time in relation to infantile psychiatry. He had a number of patients, all apparently physically normal with the following symptoms.inability to establish relations with parents, relatives and/or outsiders;

  1. retarded development of speech;
  2. generally repetitive speech (echolaic) without communicative intent;
  3. excessive concern about keeping objects in the same place and order (obsessive, compulsive behaviour);
  4. stereotypes;
  5. lack of imagination.

As the number of referrals to Dr. Kanner increased, Asberger began to describe similar cases, which he also diagnosed as autism, but with the difference that he saw these children as especially gifted in certain areas (drawing, auditory, memory, mathematics). Autism, therefore is known both as Kanner and Asberger syndrome, especially for the condition known as "knowing idiocy", or for borderline cases of dysfunction with high functioning in some areas.

Until 1943, autism was a term used in the description of some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. After Kanner's published work, the term autism was used to describe children with specific dysfunctions: the disturbance became not the symptom of another condition, but a condition in its own right.

Kanner attempted to interpret the etiology of the condition. He saw the origin of the disturbance in cold and distant mothers (refrigerator mothers), reaching conclusions of a purely psychological nature.

Other authors reached similar conclusions, including Bettelheim, Szurek, and Dolto.

Bettelheim attributed the cause of autism to the unconscious rejection of the child by parents; Szurek believed the rejection was conscious, and Dolto considered the origin of the condition to be the psychological blockage of the child's intelligence, in all cases psychotherapy was the treatment.

This situation remained unchallenged until the beginning of the 60,s at which time authors reported various kinds of neurological dysfunction in autistic children. Clinical observation and later neurological equipment examinations i.e. EEG scans, CAT scans, MRI scans PET scans, led to the inevitable hypothesis that the neurological development disorder of which autism was the expression was caused by brain injury.

In 1964, Rimland published the first work on autism which posited the organic etiology of the disturbance and Delacato after 10 years of research, published his work "The Ultimate Stranger - The Autistic Child" in 1974, not only identifying the cause of the brain injury but recommending treatment by neurological rehabilitation using sensory integration therapy, taking advantage of the brains natural plasticity, and the ability to create new learning connections via new neural pathways.

Chapter Two - Identifying Autism >>

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