What is autism spectrum disorder? Eugene Bleuler first coined the term autism in 1912. This Swiss psychiatrist used the word when explaining a schizophrenic’s difficulty in connecting with others. He choose this word because if means self.
Later, in 1943, Dr. Leo Kanner, after studying eleven children suffering similar symptoms, used the expression early infantile autism. He also picked this word because of its Greek origins, which also came from the word meaning self. He did this because he felt that a main symptom the children suffered from included an interest in themselves but not the world around them. Dr. Kanner wrote a paper based on his observation that was published in a medical publication called The Nervous Child. While this publication has long since disappeared every symptom that Kanner described in his paper are still felt to be typical behaviors of autism to this day. There are different kinds of autism, the most common one is known as Kanner’s Autism.
The term autism describes a neurodevelopmental disorder with a variety of symptoms and characteristics whose focus is on abnormal social relationships and interplay, difficulties with communications of both the verbal and non-verbal kind, a lack of focus in normal play and repetitive pattern behaviors.
Around the same time that Kanner was working with his patients, Dr. Hans Asperger was having similar results with patients who were higher functioning but exhibiting similar symptoms. This disorder was later called Asperger’s syndrome. The Second World War delayed his findings becoming well known, as did a wait of nearly fifty years to translate his conclusions into English. I was not until the late 1990s that his work was incorporated into the ongoing research into autism.
When you put these two together you get what is now referred to as ASD; autism spectrum disorders. They are two of the five pervasive developmental disorders, PDD, listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
In someone with autism they way the perceive the world can be very different than someone without autism. Their sensory reactions seem to be affected strongly. Something with a light scent to you or I may smell foul or excessively strong to someone with autism. Light that just brightens our way can be found to be blinding to an autistic. Just like a gentle touch may feel painful.
It’s difficult to treat when each person suffers somewhat different symptoms. Since there is no cure there are controversies about treatment. Some say it’s not a disorder its what these people are born with. Others claim that treatment does more harm than good and that autistics are better left alone than intruded on. The last camp heard from feel that whatever can be done to help people with autism cope in the world is worth the time and money invested.