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Rewriting The History of Autism

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There was a good deal of existing scholarship on the famed Leo Kanner, the psychiatrist who founded the first academic child psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

Frankl’s journey from Vienna to Baltimore, and from one autism pioneer to another, was if nothing else a testament to Leo Kanner’s heroism.

Kanner framed autism as a rare form of childhood psychosis and, eventually-under pressure from his Freudian psychoanalytic colleagues-adopted the view that it was caused by bad parenting and “Refrigerator mothers.”

While Kanner benefited, the field of psychiatry was damaged for a half-century. As Silberman found, Kanner and Asperger ought to have been on the same page. The greatest factor in his long obscurity, argues Silberman, was Kanner himself.

As Silberman writes, it was the belief of autism researchers that Kanner didn’t discuss Asperger because they worked with such different types of children; the former’s were “Low-functioning” and the latter’s were “High-functioning.” But Asperger was very clear in his paper that he saw more than 200 autistic children at all levels of ability.

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Article originally posted at www.theatlantic.com

Post Author: Carla Parsons

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