History Lesson

By Kelli Yeagley, OCALI

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the concept of “autism” did not begin with glossy ad campaigns, blue light bulbs, and puzzle-themed bumper stickers. Though definitions have slowly adapted to become more inclusive in recent years, the vague outlines of terms like autism and schizophrenia can be traced back to the early 1900’s. Psychiatrist (and noted eugenicist), Paul Eugen Bleuler first used the term autism to describe states within schizophrenia itself. Decades later, Drs. Lorna Wing, Judith Gould, Hans Asperger, Leo Kanner changed things up — emphasizing the importance of social communication, social thinking, and social imagination and working to disconnect it’s previous link with schizophrenia.

They, along with many others, laid the groundwork for a diagnosis that would be considered unique unto itself. Though limited by the scientific knowledge and political climate of their time, this differentiation began dismantling the idea that parents were responsible for their children’s differences and instead attempted to shift the conversation toward natural (e.g. genetic) beginnings, awareness, and acceptance. Continue reading “History Lesson”