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Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders, History of

This entry discusses the history of autism, including its conceptualization as multiple disorders and later as autism spectrum disorder. It first discusses the early research on autism, then looks at the evolution of diagnostic terms and conceptualizations of autism; debates over diagnosis, causal explanations, and treatment approaches; and the need for ongoing work to improve outcomes for individuals with autism.

Historical accounts of individuals who may have had what has since become known as autism extend back several centuries. However, most accounts of the origination of the diagnosis of autism lead back to the writings of two child psychiatrists in the 1940s: Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. Both Kanner in the United States and Asperger in Austria noticed in some of their patients the limited capacity ...

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