Tag Archives: autism

Feb. 05.

The History and the Changes in Defining Autism

Dr. Leo Kanner coined term infantile autism based his observations of behavioral disturbances seen in a small group of children (Levy et al, 2001).  Nowadays, the concept of autism is more broadened due extensive research by the medical community.  The autistic disorder was a rare disorder of yesteryears about 2 to 5 per 10,000 during the 1970s (Levy et al, 2001). It is now more common than Down syndrome disorder. There is one in 88 children on the autism spectrum disorder in the United States that was based on 14 communities from Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study in 2008. The rate of autism is now a public health concern in identifying risks (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012).  Boys are five times more than likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012).  It is uncertain in the medical community whether the increase was due to improvements in methodology of identifying and reporting the diagnoses of autism from pediatricians or from the clarity and broadening the diagnostic approach and procedural guidelines. The diagnostic criteria for diagnosing autism have notably changed in DSM V (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).  For instances, the autism spectrum was identified under the Pervasive Developmental Disorders category, which included the Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Autistic Disorder, and the Asperger’s Disorder. These disorders now receive a separate diagnostic label with further distinctive characteristics based on their severity and are no longer under the Pervasive Developmental Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The Retts disorder was removed from DSM V under the Autistic Disorder.

The populace became aware of autism when Kanner brought it popularity in the 1940s; however, there were evidence that autism exist long before (Gupta,2003). Attention was given to a group of children who exhibit ‘Disintegrative psychosis’ in year of 1867and children with behaviors similar to those with autism in 1908 by Beuler (Gupta,2003). In the 1919, a clinical psychologist named Lightner Whitmer, had seen a child who was 2 ½ with autistic behaviors. This disorder or Asperger is believed or suspected to be seen in famous people such as Henry Cavendish, a famous scientist (Gupta,2003). Thomas Jefferson was suspected to have Asperger due his aloofness and fixation when he was a child (Gupta,2003).There was a Scottish landlord who was referred to as mad, but he symptoms of autism and was documented in court from his dissolution of marriage as suggestive autism. Autism was once viewed as childhood schizophrenia (Gupta, 2003).


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed., text rev.). Washington,D.C.

Gupta., V.B(2003).The history, definition and classification of pervasive developmental disorders. EP Magazine .pp 58-62



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