History of Autism
The term autism was first used by Leo Kanner, M.D in his classic 1943 paper titled Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact. In his paper, Dr. Kanner described 11 children who had very similar autistic behaviors.
Hans Asperger wrote a paper titled Autistic Psychopathy in Childhood, and the paper was unnoticed by the autism community until the 1980s. Dr. Asperger described a high-functioning subtype of autism which is referred to as Asperger syndrome.
In the 1950s
Dr. Bruno Bettleheim, a psychoanalyst, stated that the parents cause autism. He even used the term "refrigerator mother" to describe the mother who he thought was cold and unaffectionate.
In the 1960s
In 1964, Dr. Bernard Rimland, a parent of an autistic child, wrote the ground-breaking book Infantile Autism, in which he clearly and concisely concluded that autism is a physiological problem. Over the past 40 years, thousands and thousands of scientific research studies have shown support to the biological cause of autism. Dr. Rimland also began studying the use of vitamin B6 and magnesium. To date, of all of the biological treatments for autism, including drugs, vitamin B6 with magnesium has received the most scientific support.
Dr. Ivar Lovaas at UCLA began applying behavior modification techniques to improve the condition of autistic individuals. He employed behavior modification to reduce behavior problems, increase appropriate behaviors, and to teach language and educational concepts.
Dr. Rimland founded the Autism Society of America (ASA). The first president was Dr. Ruth Sullivan. The initial focus of the ASA was to promote the use of behavior modification techniques throughout the country to improve the behavior and to educate autistic individuals.
In the 1970s
Researchers throughout the world began searching for the gene(s) associated with autism as well as examining the neurophysiology of autism.
In the 1980s
In 1982, the Autism Council of Oregon was formed. The name was later changed to the Autism Society of Oregon.
1n 1988, the movie Rain Man was released. The movie received an academy award for Best Picture of the Year, and Dustin Hoffman received the Best Actor award. The movie increased the public's awareness of autism.
Starting in the mid- to late 1980s, the prevalence rate of autism began to increase. Prior to the mid-1980s, the rate was approximately 1 in 2000 children.
In the 1990s
The use of behavior modification, more specifically Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), received widespread acceptance as an effective treatment for autism.
In 1995, the Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) movement began in which researchers and experienced physicians started working closely together to understand and treat autistic individuals using safe biomedical interventions. Starting in the mid-1990s to the present, the media becomes much more interested in autism, primarily due to the high prevalence rate. As of 2004, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the rate of autism to be 1 in 166 children. According to statistics published by the Department of Education, Oregon has one of the high prevalence rates in the country.