The History of Autism (A Summary)

Autism was official discovered 60 years ago. Although still puzzling to many, professionals are learning more about autism everyday.

Some facts:

  • Early accounts of individuals with autism are unclear
  • The concept and definition of autism has greatly changed over the years
  • Socio-political views as well as treatment available has evolved and continues to grow
  • Symptoms may have been confused with schizophrenia in the past

Timeline:

  • 1960s-Michael Rutter’s comparative study comparing the features of autism
  • 1960s-1970s: Kolvin distinguished autism from schizophrenia
  • 1970-Hermelin and O’Connor explored the “savant”
  • 1971- first association of autism as a specific medical condition (Stella Chess was the first to discover that autism can be associated with a neurological disease)
  • 1975- US Developmental Disability Act included individuals with autism
  • 1981- Lorna Wing’s seminal paper discusses Asperger’s Syndrome
  • 2000-Gillberg added to the knowledge of epidemiology, genetics, and clinical management

Early Accounts/History Records:

  • Book: Autism in History by Rob Houston (discusses the legal case of Uta Frith’s analysis of Hugh Blair in 1747)
  • The story of Victor “the wild boy of Aveyron”  in 1798 with Jean Itard
  • Paper: Observations on Madness and Melancholy chapter entitled “Cases on insane children” by John Haslam (discusses a boy with characteristics of autism published in 1809)
  • Book: The Pathology of the Mind chapter entitled “The insanity of early life” by Henry Maudsley (discusses a 13 year boy who shares similar characteristics of an individuals with Aspergers in 1879)
  • Ssucharewa’s account of six children in Germany during 1926
  • Hans Aspergers’s account of four children in 1949
  • Lorna Wing’s seminal paper in 1981

Outdated Ideas/Theories

  • Autism is caused by bad parenting
  • Autism is among the group of schizophrenia (we now know that autism is a developmental disorder rather than a psychosis)
  • Autism is secondary to language disorders

Interesting Facts:

  • Over 50% of children with autism are taking drugs/vitamins in the US (not the case in the UK)

Journals:

  • The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (started in 1971 by Kanner and Chess)
  • Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities (started in 1985)
  • The International Autism Research Review (started in 1987)
  • International Journal of Research and Practice (started in 1997)
  • Good Autism Practice (started in 2001)

Current Books to Read:

  • “Pretending to be Normal” by Liane Willey
  • “Growing up Severely Autistic” by Kate Rankins
  • “An Inside View Of Autism” by Temple Grandin
  • “Freaks, Geeks, and Aspergers Syndrome” by Luke Jackson

Reference: 

Wolff, S. (2004). The history of autism. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 13(4), 201-8. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.bsu.edu/10.1007/s00787-004-0363-5

The Power Wheelchair

The Argonault Power Wheelchair is an amazing idea that can change the lives of those with disabilities. As technology constantly evolves the way we live and function, this power wheelchair can help make the lives of those with limited mobility more accessible. In particular, I love how this design showcases the independence of those using a wheelchair. For example, when the individual uses the wheelchair after laying down in his bed and then entering into his car. In my opinion, this is one of the coolest ideas I have come across in a while. I truly hope this becomes a reality one day.

Emergent Learning

When I look back at my college years, Dr. Brian Glenney is one of the professors who stand out in my mind. Being a teacher myself, I am constantly inspired by other teachers who have molded me into the learner and professional I am today. Dr. Brian Glenney was a teacher who not only inspired, but taught me the value of pushing through new academic explorations and experiences.

His paper on Emergent Learning in Independent Studies: The Story of the Accessible Icon Project, recently published in Experiential Learning in Philosophy, highlights the value of teaching with an approach that pushes students toward publications and conference presentations. Under his guidance, I attended my first conference at the University of Tennessee and have, since then, spoken at other conferences due to the confidence he helped instill in me as a learner.

Dr Brian Glenney Leah Serao Accessible Icon Project

For me, his approach to teaching inspired me to be the best researcher, learner, and writer I could be. Although I still have a far way to go, his teaching style opened many doors and I am forever grateful to his unique technique.

 

Experience Autism through Video

Ever wonder what it is like to feel over-stimulated? Carly Fleischmann shows through video what it is like to experience sensory overload in everyday settings.

Video 1: Coffee shop

Video 2: Walking down the street 

3. Video 3: Shopping at a store

Carly Fleischmann created these videos through her own experience. As we know, every individual sees the world through a different lens, which can lead to a different experience than those shown above. The reason I still appreciate these videos are that they highlight important characteristics that are common with those who experience sensory overload:

1. Increased brightness

2. Jumbled noise

3. Sensitivity to certain smells

4. Distracted by individual objects that become the complete focus of the individual 

Seeing the world through a lens of Signs and Symbols

How a new International Symbol of Access can change the way we see individuals with disabilities 

Background

The Accessible Icon Project is an international project that has collected a lot of informal data through the many conversations, presentations, and emails received from people around the world. This research initiative is one of the first formal methods of obtaining specific information about the types of words people associate with the International Symbol of Access (original ‘handicapped’ sign) and the Accessible Icon (new symbol created by Sara Hendren, Brian Glenney, and Tim Ferguson-Sauder). The two surveys used in this study asked participants to compare the current International Symbol of Access to the Accessible Icon. The first survey asked participants a series of questions regarding the words they would use to describe both images. The second survey asked different participants to rank a collection of 18 words from most positive to negative.

Survey 1: (Screen shots of the survey are found in paper)

At the beginning of the survey, participants were shown a picture of the original International Symbol of Access (ISA) and were asked two opened ended questions:  1. What do you see? 2. What words do you attach to the image above? On a new page, participants were shown the Accessible Icon and were asked the same two questions. Participants responded to the symbols in historical order.

Participants were then shown the original ISA and were asked to choose from a list of 20 pre-selected words to describe the image. Participants were given the following words: Abled, Active, Determined, Disabled, Engaged, Handicapped, Human, Life-less, Mobile, Motivated, Movement, Moving-Forward, Parking, Passive, Ready-for-action Robotic, Slow, Static, Stiff, and Symbol.

Survey 2:

The second survey asked participants to rank the 18 words given in the first survey from most positive (1) to most negative (18). Participants from survey 1 did not participate in survey 2. Additionally, survey 2 participants did not know survey 1 existed.

Findings

More positive language is associated to words describing the Accessible Icon. Out of the top ten words linked to the Accessible Icon, all 10 were listed as the most positive in the comparative scale. The only word that described both the Accessible Icon and International Symbol of Access was the word “symbol”, which was ranked 10 out of 18. I analyze symbol as a neutral word since it is ranked in the middle of the positive and negative scale. Not one person associated the words: passive, static, slow, and lifeless (which was ranked the most negative) to the Accessible Icon.

The original ISA was described with the words that were found to be the most negative. 52 people identified the ISA with the word disabled and 40 people identified the ISA with the word lifeless. Not one positively ranked word was mentioned in the top ten words associated with the original ISA.

Please read the full paper by clicking on the blue link above.