The Evolution of Autism

What is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that begins early in childhood; it is usually noticed in children by age 3. Defining characteristics of autism include communication deficits, poorly developed reciprocal social interactions, stereotyped behaviors, and restricted interests. These deficits occur at different levels of severity which has evolved into the contemporary view of autism as a spectrum disorder, and it is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Autistic Disorder (AD), or Autism.

Traditionally, the autism range has included Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

Autistic Disorder is sometimes called classic autism. It is characterized by:

  1. Significant language delays including reduced instances of language that has communicative and reciprocal intent.
  2. Minimal reciprocal social interactions. For example, avoidance of eye contact, lack of appropriate facial expressions, inability to appropriately communicate emotions, lack of understanding of shared emotions, and inability to use verbal and nonverbal behaviors for social interchange.
  3. Stereotyped behaviors and restricted interests. These may include unusual sensory interests toward objects, unusual or repetitive hand and finger movements, and excessive interest or reference to either unusual or highly specific topics or objects.

Asperger Syndrome, while somewhat milder than Autistic Disorder, has both similar and distinct characteristics including:

  1. Difficulty with the social aspects of speech and language such as limited range of intonation, one-sided conversations, literal interpretations, and inability to shift topics. Vocabulary development is usually advanced while understanding of figurative language is a weakness.
  2. Difficulty with social cognition a lack of social and/or emotional reciprocity, eye contact, and friendships. Social awkwardness such as not reacting appropriately to social interactions and not recognizing other’s feelings or reactions. Difficulties with social cognition may result in behavioral rigidity.
  3. Restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities. This may result in inflexibility in regard to routines. Preoccupation with a narrowed topic of interest which often dominates conversations and thoughts.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified is used to categorize those individuals who meet some, but not all, of the criteria for Autistic Disorder or Asperger Syndrome. PDD-NOS is usually marked by fewer and milder symptoms than Autistic Disorder or Asperger Syndrome. Pervasive deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction, communication, or stereotyped and restricted behaviors are apparent.

History of Autism

Assuming that Autism is a neurological disorder and not caused by “bad” parenting or environmental toxins then it has, most likely, always existed among human beings; however, it was not scientifically described or empirically researched until the 20th century.

Early 1900s

In the early 1900s autism was thought to be a form of childhood schizophrenia, feeble-mindedness, or childhood psychosis.

The term autism was first used by the Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler between 1908 and 1912. He used it to describe schizophrenic patients who had withdrawn from social contact, appeared to be living in their own world, and were socially disconnected. The root of the word autism is derived from the Greek “autos” which means “self”. That root is combined with the Greek suffix “ismos,” meaning the act, state, or being of. Bleuler used the word “autism” to mean morbid self-admiration and withdrawal into self. It suggests a state of being absorbed by oneself, lost in oneself, removed from social interaction, and isolated from social interaction. While Bleuler described and documented characteristics of autism, his adult patients were diagnosed as having schizophrenia and children were diagnosed as having childhood schizophrenia.

1920s and 1930s

In 1926, Dr. Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva, a Russian psychiatrist described what would later become the core deficits of Asperger Syndrome in boys that she labeled as having schizoid personality disorder of childhood. In 1933, Dr. Howard Potter described children who would now be identified as autistic as having a childhood form of schizophrenia.

1930s and 1940s

The two main pioneers in autism research, Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner, began working separately in the 1930’s and 1940’s. In 1934 Hans Asperger of the Vienna University Hospital used the term autistic and in 1938 he adopted the term “autistic psychopaths” in discussions of child psychology. However, Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital began using the term autism to describe behaviors that are now recognized as Autism Disorder or classical autism. Leo Kanner is the one who is usually credited for using the term autism as it is known today.

Kanner’s 1943 descriptions of autism were the result of his observations of eleven children who showed a marked lack of interest in other people, difficulties in social interactions, difficulty in adapting to changes in routines, good memory, sensitivity to stimuli (especially sound), and a highly unusual interest in the inanimate environment. These socially withdrawn children were described by Kanner as; lacking affective contact with others; being fascinated with objects; having a desire for sameness; and being non-communicative in regard to language before 30 months of age. Kanner emphasized the role of biology in the cause of autism. He felt that the lack of social connectedness so early in life must result from a biological inability to form affective relationships with others. However, Kanner also felt that parents displayed a lack of warmth and attachment to their autistic children. In his 1949 paper, he attributed autism to a “genuine lack of maternal warmth.”

In 1944, working separately from Kanner, Hans Asperger described a “milder” form of autism, known today as Asperger Syndrome. Asperger also studied a group of children who possessed many of the same behaviors as described in Kanner’s descriptions of autism. However, the children he studied demonstrated precocious vocabulary and speech development but poor social communication skills. These children appeared to have a desire to be a part of the social world, but lacked the necessary skills. He also mentioned that many of the children were clumsy and different from normal children in terms of fine motor skills.


During the 1950s, Bruno Bettelheim, a University of Chicago professor and child development specialist, furthered Kanner’s 1949 view that autism resulted from a lack of maternal warmth. Bettleheim’s view of autism being caused by emotionally cold and distant mothers became known as the Refrigerator Mother Theory of autism. The idea behind the theory was that children became autistic because mothers didn’t interact, play, or them; in a sense, they were “frigid.” He published articles throughout the 1950s and 1960s to popularize this position. Proponents of this view were searching for a place to lay blame for autism.

It was also during this decade and into the next that parents were counseled to institutionalize their children in order for them to receive appropriate treatment.


Beginning in the 1960s there was increased awareness within the professional community that the refrigerator mother theory did not adequately account for autism. The theory ignored the fact that siblings of autistic children were not autistic despite having the same mother, and scientific advancements began to suggest more biological causes.

In 1964, Bernard Rimland, a psychologist with an autistic son, stressed the biological causes of autism in his book “Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior.” The publication of this book directly challenged the prevailing refrigerator mother theory of autism. In 1965, Rimland established the Autism Society of America, which was one of the first advocacy groups for parents of children with autism. He established the Autism Research Institute in 1967 to conduct research on treatment for autism.

In 1967 autism continued to be classified under schizophrenia in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. This promoted the view that autism was a mental illness rather than a developmental disability.


There was a push during this decade to better define autism and, with scientific advancement, there was better understanding of autism as having a neurobiological basis.


The publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) in 1980 finally set autism apart from schizophrenia as it was now categorized as a neurodevelopmental disorder. Autism research continued to increase during the 1980s along with recognition within the scientific community that autism resulted from neurological disturbances rather than pathological parenting.

It was during this decade that Asperger’s work was translated to English and published. The term, “Asperger’s Syndrome” was first used in 1981 by the British psychiatrist Lorna Wing. She also developed the Wing’s Triad of Impairments, which is Impairment in Imagination, Impairment in Social Communication, and Impairment in Social Relationships to describe autism.


In 1994 Asperger’s syndrome was officially added to the DSM-IV as a progressive developmental disorder. Two nonprofit groups, the National Alliance for Autism Research and Cure Autism Now, were founded to stimulate autism research and raise awareness about the disorder. Research starts to suggest that autism is a spectrum disorder. Near the end of the decade, as autism rates rose, it was speculated that autism was due to mercury in vaccines.


In 2000, vaccine makers removed thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, from all routinely given childhood vaccines. Public fears were that exposure to the preservative were related to autism. The National Institute of Health estimated that autism affected 1 in 250 children in 2001. The Institute of Medicine found no credible evidence of a link between thimerosal or any other vaccine and autism in 2004.

The prevalence of autism increased significantly during this decade as a result of better detection, broader diagnostic criteria, and increased public awareness. In 2007 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with autism. Part of this increase is a result of better understanding of autism as a spectrum disorder.


A hundred years later, the term autism describes a neurodevelopmental condition that results in significant social cognitive and social communicative impairment. Current research is focused on identifying biologically distinct subtypes of autism. The belief is that once subtypes are understood advance can be made in regard to understanding cause and developing effective treatments. The ultimate goal of this line of research is to eventually find a cure and be able to prevent it.

Until that time, the prevalence of autism continues to increase. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately1 in 88 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

The upcoming publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in May 2013 will remove Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS as separate from autism. Instead, diagnosis will be autism spectrum disorder in an attempt to more accurately reflect the continuum and severity of the types of symptoms and behaviors displayed.

It will be interesting to see how these diagnostic changes and research into the biological subtypes of autism impact the future evolution of this neurodevelopmental disorder.

Source by David Pino

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How to Handle Autism Anger in the Teenage Years

Teens with autism can sometimes be faced with behaviors – such as autism anger – which are beyond their control. Anger can occur in many forms but often takes the shape of violence or tantrums.

When it comes to handling uncontrolled anger, it is typically recommended that whenever possible, you should not look at the person, not talk to them, and not touch them (unless it is for your own or their safety). Essentially, do not add to their over stimulation and refrain from doing anything that might add fire to the flames. Many parents find that over time, angry outbursts are reduced when no one reacts to them.

Ignoring this kind of behavior will no doubt be hard at first. After all, when your child was little, anger was easier to control because you could either physically stop him or her from throwing the tantrum or distract them with a toy or favorite object. However, once your child has entered the teenage years, then he or she will be too big to deal with physically and bribery with a favorite object tend to be less effective. So without he or she she breaking things, hurting others or themselves, it's best to stay out of the way and let the anger wear off.

Autism anger in teens can be quite frightening. Behaviors can escalate to the point where others are at risk of being harmed. In fact, tantrum behaviors can even be seen as criminal in some cases, should the loss of control result in destroying possessions or hurting others.

The following steps are often recommended for parents who have teens who occasionally suffer from autism related anger outbursts. They should be used when and if applicable, and not unnecessarily in this order:

– Resist intervening – as was mentioned earlier, by remaining calm and out of the way the tantrum should fade much more quickly because it will not have outside stimulus to spur it on.

– Ensure safety – make sure that you, your child, and anyone else in the area are safe. If your autistic teen is simply screaming, pounding their feet, and doing other similar activities, and if there is nobody else in the area, it's usually best to simply leave the room or area and get yourself to a safe place. That way, you're not only protecting yourself from harm, but you're removing yourself altogether. Sometimes simply being alone is enough to have the teen calm down.

– Calming People – If there is an individual who you know can diffuse the situation or is usually able to calm your teen down, then you may wish to see if they're available to help. They may not have to do anything, but simply their presence may be enough to instill calm. However, this technique only works if there is a calming person in your teen's life. This is not always the case.

– Call for Help – If the situation does not appear to be improving or if behaviors have become violent or out of control, then getting some outside help – paramedics, or even the police – may be the only solution. They will be able to support your efforts to have your teen calm down and help control any dangerous behaviors.

Autism anger can be an overwhelming experience for teenagers as they struggle with fluctuating hormones and fighting for their independence, but it can also be very upsetting for the parents.

It's important that once you have the situation under control, you work through together the cause of the outburst in a calm and controlled way, without apportioning blame, so that the scenario should occur in the future steps that can be taken to divert anger before the situation becomes heated.

Source by Rachel Evans

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Short Story Writing – How to Develop Strong Characters Quickly

When it comes to developing a strong a character quickly there are a few basic fundamental things to establish before you know you have a solid character to develop and build on. A character’s origin, beliefs and values, morals, strengths, weakness and relationships are what will ultimately determine their outlook and how they play out their story.


Adding your character background can help to know where they are going. This will help to navigate you through the story and to your end objective. Equally having an element of mystery to your character can engage your audience and hook them to find out why and more about your character. This is always fun to play with.

Values or belief

When developing a strong character a dominating trait is the character values and belief. Similar to real life, a character’s beliefs and values is a blueprint or a navigation for their outlook on life and ultimately their resolve. A characters views and decisions will come from these principles and when they are lost this will help them stay grounded.

Moral compass

There is the good, there is the bad and there is the ugly. Knowing fundamentally what your characters moral compass is naturally directed to can help to build for interesting decisions depending on what scenarios your character encounter on their journey. A strong character will always stay true to them. However, it’s always interesting when the character does what you least expect.


Knowing what your character’s strength are always is a quick way to develop a strong character and ultimately this will be what separates them from the rest of the characters in the story. Focusing on the strengths can quickly remind the audience why the character is such an important part of the story.


Knowing your weaknesses is just as important. Knowing their Achilles heel or they risk falling as quick just as fast as they get to rise to power. Ultimately it is this weakness that adds flavour to your protagonist and is what makes them interesting.


Considering relationships and support system and how this can add another layer of interesting sub story plots to a character. Depending on their relationship you may find that there are deeper sub-issues that can arise and that can make for another side quest.

What would they do?

After you have you have developed your character, then you should quickly be able to envision what your character would do in any situation. Whether your character decides to go for a walk or your character is thrown into a dynamic situation, you will understand how your character’s traits are intertwined into their decision and outcomes. Quickly developing a strong character for every situation.

So there you have it. Simple tips on how to develop strong characters quickly. Once you have these listed in front of you which should take no longer than an hour, you should be able to start the story.

Source by Clement Boateng

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