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January 2011



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July 25, 8:58 PMShreveport Autism & Parenting ExaminerMary Toso

History of the Word

No discussion of autism is complete without looking back historically at how it has been viewed and diagnosed. This is because autism and related conditions have fought a lingering effect of psychological and psychiatric diagnoses associated with the earliest observations of patients being called autistic. People need to be informed with so many more now dealing with this in their families, personally, or with someone they know.

Before Leo Kanner’s work in 1943, autism was viewed through the perspective first used by Swiss psychiatrist Eugene Bleuler in1912. Autism-Psychology Wiki informs that he used autism in an issue of The American Journal of Insanity, and that the word comes from the Greek word for ‘self’, autos. It was in the work of dealing with schizophenia, which he first named, that he went on to introduce the term autism. Kanner, however, saw a definable difference in a condition that he chose the word autism to describe. In doing so he separated it from schizophrenia, but the impact of the term already had greatly confused people about the condition of autism- schizophrenia being a major psychiatric illness. Associated with  schizophrenia are symptoms such as losing touch with reality, hearing voices and even hallucinating. However, the onset is unusual in very young children. Still, autism originally was a severe to moderately severe condition compared with the possibly high functioning PDD (NOS) described in The mystery child of PDD (NOS), or high functioning others in the spectrum.  It was of an extremely rare type which had traits that were more easily defined, and many feel the term needed to remain applicable only to this small minority of people. So what might the autistic child look like that autism first described?

The Severely Autistic Child

This child from early on appears out of touch. He does not connect with even his mother in ways expressing bonded relationship, to her disillusionment. For example, eye contact is rare if at all, and speech also. There is a chronically habitual fine motor motion that the child will do. He shows fixation in response to it. For example, he might flap his hand up and down while never even noticing anyone else in a room. Larger, rapid motor behaviors might also take place like repeated waving of arms, spinning and rocking.

Potential Implications:

Therefore, though great strides have been made to understand the condition, a stigma is still associated with the extreme of the original terms and their definitions. Both the mental illness associated with schizophrenia, and the images of one having more severe autism are lingering with the term autism. Many children today called autistic are so vastly different that the condition doesn’t even appear to be the same, and actually really in the obvious ways isn’t. Even more so it could impact this child to realize someone would associate him with the schizophrenic when he is of vastly healthier condition. Given this it seems wise to consider the opinions of those concerned, and see what they are suggesting when defining autism spectrum, and the range of conditions the term now refers to. Hopefully, each individual will be more appreciated this way.


Children here in the Shreveport, LA area need to be seen as the individuals they are. When they are diagnosed or appear to be in the autism spectrum please remember how diverse this group has become and be sensitive to the uniqueness they have. We need to be thoughtful not to box them into a preconception we may have of this term.

Source:  http://www.examiner.com/x-57082-Shreveport-Autism–Parenting-Examiner~y2010m7d25-Classic-autism-A-perspective?cid=channel-rss-Family_and_Parenting


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