Concepts of Autism

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Conrad Simon Memorial Research Initiative
Date posted:  April 24, 2000 08:01 PM
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© Copyright 1999-2000
Eileen Nicole Simon

picture of Conrad
Conrad, an often somber child

Origin of the concept of infantile autism is widely attributed to Leo Kanner (1943). Kanner described the disorder as being present from birth. Descriptions of the disorder had been made at least as early as the late nineteenth century. Barr (1898) described a 22-year-old retarded man with a phenomenal memory and echolalic speech, and Barr cited use of the term echolalia in the German literature beginning with Romberg (1850).

DeSanctis (1908) and Heller (1908) described children with autistic behaviors, and both used the term "dementia infantilis" in accordance with Kraepelin's term "dementia praecox" for the disorder now known as schizophrenia, which is manifested in late adolescence or early adulthood (Kraepelin 1904). Bleuler (1924) employed the term schizophrenia as a euphemism less stigmatizing than dementia praecox, and many reports of childhood schizophrenia appeared until well after Kanner (1943, 1946) introduced the term "early infantile autism."


Asperger (1944) described the isolative behaviors in children and referred to this as autistic psychopathology. However, these were children who had acquired language within the normal time span for development of speech. Children with autism who develop communicative speech are now referred to as cases of Asperger syndrome or High-functioning autism.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (1994), DSM-IV, includes autism and Asperger syndrome within the category "pervasive developmental disorders" (PDD).

References

American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Asperger (1944) Die autistischen Psychopathen im Kindersalter. Archiv fuer Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten 117:76. [J. Autism 15:389]

Barr MW (1898) Some notes on echolalia with the report of an extraordinary case. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 25:20-30.

Bleuler E (1924) Textbook of Psychiatry, 4th edition, translated by AA Brill) New York: MacMillan.

DeSanctis S (1908) Dementia pracocissima catatonica oder Katatonie des frueheren Kindesalters? Folia Neuro-Biologica, (Leipzig) 2:9-12.

Heller T (1908) Ueber Dementia infantilis. Zeitschrift fuer die Erforschung und Behandlung des Jugendlichen Schwachsinns 2:17-28.

Kanner L (1943) Autistic disturbances of affective contact. Nervous Child 2:217-250.

Kanner L (1946) Irrelevant and metaphorical language early infantile autism. American Journal of Psychiatry 103:242-246.

Kraepelin E (1904) Lectures on Clinical Psychiatry. Third English Edition, Johnston T, ed (1912). New York:William Wood and Company.

Romberg (1850) Deutsche Klinik, Berlin, ii:59.


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