Today I heard an autism “expert” talking on the radio.
The autism expert said that autism started in the 1950’s. This is just not true.
It started to be called autism in the 1950’s, even though the term autism was probably not widely known amongst the public and even doctors.
It was only when Leo Kanner followed by Hans Asperger, started to do their ground breaking work, that the word autism and later Asperger syndrome, began to enter into the consciousness of psychologists and psychiatrists.
My point is, that autism has always been around, it just wasn’t always called autism.
Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, many children that displayed what we would now see as autistic symptoms, were diagnosed with schizophrenia. This is exactly what happened to me and many other older autistic people I know of.
We were called slow, backward, maladjusted and retarded. Often, we were put into institutions or special schools. We were medicated and written off.
In my case we were told “of course he’ll have to go into an institution, and he will probably never come out.” I was eleven when this shocking piece of news was related to my parents.
I was not the only one. I work as a tutor to a 48 year man with classic autism. He was also diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child. He was institutionalized for many years and medicated for a diagnosis that was incorrect. It has only been in the past 15 years that he has finally been correctly diagnosed with autism. He now attends a day centre for autistic adults. He thrives in this environment and it makes you wonder what his life could have been like.
So in conclusion, I will say that it does make me a little angry when I hear autism experts say that autism started in the 1950’s. Her facts were incorrect and misleading. I called the radio station to make my point, but unfortunately the debate had by then, come to an end.
If you have any thoughts on this issue, please leave a comment.
Thanks for reading – Steve