Autism is a mental illness described as the morbid self-admiration and withdrawal within the self. Spearheaded by psychiatrists Eugen Bleuler, Leo Kranner, and Hans Asperger, they strove to define what Autism was, its root cause, the effects of the disease on the mind and body, and how to appease or to cure it. To this day, there is no known cure for Autism, although there are measures in which the disease may be improved. Read on for more information about autism and its colorful history.
Fact 1: In 1908, Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler coined the term â€œautismâ€. The most influential medical practitioner in the field during that time, after a series of tests and examinations amongst severely withdrawn schizophrenic patients, Bleuler gained renown as the pioneer in the treatment for psychoses, most especially schizophrenia.
Fact 2: Later on in 1943, an American child psychiatrist who went by the name of Leo Kanner conducted a study which involved 11 children who suffered from Autism. The study showed that children suffering from the disease displayed the following: features of difficulty in social interactions, difficulty in adapting to sudden changes within routines, exceptional memory, sensitivity to stimuli; especially sound, resistance and allergies towards food, good intellectual potential, echolalia or the aptness to repeat words of the speaker, and difficulties in spontaneous activity.
Fact 3: 1943 was the year fellow psychiatrist Hans Asperger conducted his own study. Working on a separate case, the results of the children he studied were fairly similar to that of Leo Kanner’s, except he discovered that some cases did not have echolalia as a linguistic problem; instead, his children spoke like grownups
Fact 4: Bruno Bettelheim, another child psychiatrist, formulated a hypothesis after studying the effects of Autism amongst three children. He believed that the reason behind the behavior of the children was due to the treatment they received from their mothers. His hypothesis claimed that children with autism had frigid mothers, and together with Kanner, they strove to prove the theory.
Fact 5: Bernard Rimland, a reputable psychologist, was a father of an autistic child and did not believe in the theory laid out by Bettelheim and Kanner. He believed that his son’s autism wasn’t caused by his or his wife’s parenting. In 1964 he released a book which countered Bettelheim’s theory. Entitled â€œEnfantile Autism: The Syndrome and its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behaviorâ€, it was published in the hopes of clearing the good name of parents with autistic children, as well as putting to rest Bettelheim’s theory.
Fact 6: The year 1970 was a breakthrough for Autism. The Erica Foundation was formed in the hopes of delivering education and therapy for psychotic children during the early 1980s. The foundation was the first of its kind and sought to educate people, most especially parents, about the difference of autism, mental retardation, and psychosis, all while improving the children’s lives.
Fact 7: In 1998, Hollywood dabbled in the world of Autism, and with the help of a superstar cast produced the hit movie â€œRain Manâ€ which helped spread awareness about Autism. It starred Dustin Hoffman as an autistic savant gifted with a photographic memory and a knack for counting cards and calculating larger than life sums in his mind. Although not every autistic child is gifted with talents such as this, most if not all of them excel in a certain feat. Rain Man gave the word â€œAustisticâ€ an entirely new meaning after its release.
Fact 8: 1980 was the year science was able to prove once and for all that autism had no relation whatsoever to the child’s parents or the type of parenting they received. Other neurological disturbances which were believed to cause autism surfaced instead, such as genetic ailments like tuberculosis sclerosis, metabolic disturbances such as PKU, and of course chromosomal abnormalities such as Fragile X Syndrome.
Fact 9: Research that was conducted back in 2009 showed that the presence of a trained dog, or good natured dogs in general, were beneficial towards an autistic child’s behavior. The study showed that the dog improved the autistic child’s quality of life almost instantaneously; reducing aggressive behavior, as well as serving as the link between the child and the community.
Fact 10: A nationwide Autism Awareness Campaign was adopted by Congress in 1984. Shortly after, the release of the Autism Awareness Ribbon followed suit. More than 100 foundations strive to support, study, provide information, and advocate programs for the autism community.