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1943: Based on a study of 11 socially withdrawn children, child psychiatrist Leo Kanner identifies autism as "lack of affective contact, fascination with objects, desire for sameness and non-communicative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