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Correction to This Article
An item in this timeline of key dates in autism history incorrectly said that in 1994 Asperger's syndrome was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a "progressive developmental disorder." The correct term is "pervasive developmental disorder."
Some Key Dates in Autism History

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

1943: Based on a study of 11 socially withdrawn children, child psychiatrist Leo Kanner identifies autism as "lack of affective contact, fascination with objects, desire for sameness and non-communicative language before 30 months of age."

1944: German scientist Hans Asperger describes a "milder" form of autism, known today as Asperger's syndrome. Over time, experts will place Asperger's and other autism-related conditions on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe dysfunction.

1965: U.S. psychologist Bernard Rimland establishes the Autism Society of America, one of the first advocacy groups for parents of children with autism.

1967: Autism is classified under schizophrenia in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

1971: Eminent psychologist Bruno Bettelheim promotes the "refrigerator mother" theory, which holds that "cold," unurturing parents, especially moms, are to blame for autism.

1980: Autism is categorized as a developmental disorder separate from schizophrenia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III), the reference book used by health-care professionals to diagnose mental health disorders.

1994: Asperger's syndrome is officially added to the DSM-IV as a progressive developmental disorder. Two nonprofit groups, the National Alliance for Autism Research and Cure Autism Now, are founded to stimulate autism research and raise awareness about the disorder.

2000: In response to broad government concerns, vaccine makers remove thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, from all routinely given childhood vaccines. Public fears grow that exposure to the preservative may be tied to autism. The National Institutes of Health estimates autism affects 1 in 500 children.

2001: The NIH estimates autism affects 1 in 250 children.

2004: The Institute of Medicine, which advises the government on scientific matters, finds no credible evidence of a link between thimerosal and autism . . . or between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism.

2007: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports autism affects 1 in 150 children. Medical experts say the changed number reflects better detection, broader diagnostic criteria and increased public awareness -- not a spike in the disease.

-- Brittney Johnson

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