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Definition of Autism

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Research Paper by Fueainaula Elaine Lam Yuen

Introduction to Psychology

Instructor: Mrs. Tala Ropeti

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Autism Spectrum Disorder
  1. History
  2. Characteristics
  1. Behavioral
  2. Social Interaction
  3. Communication
  1. Treatment.


        The purpose of this research paper is to discuss the definition of autism. Not only that, because autism is a common illness, this paper will also go into the history of how it came to be as well as the effects and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder. Autism is very dangerous because it can develop in infants and can be unnoticed until symptoms are very visible, such as self-injurious behavior. 45% of the world’s population are people with autism, especially infants and toddlers. My sources are mainly secondary, and mostly found online.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorders or ASD is a term used to identify or refer a wide range of conditions seen as challenges with repeating behaviors, social skills, speech, as well as body language, facial expressions and more. Additional to the list of symptoms of autism, it may include sensory sensitivity and sensory sensitivity. There is not only one type of autism but many subordinates, mostly influenced by a combination and mixture of genetics (related to tiny chemical assembly instructions inside of living things) and environmental (related to surrounding conditions or the health of the earth). There are three types of autism spectrum disorders. They are Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder or sometimes called ‘atypical autism.’


        ‘Autism’ is a word that was first taken into its modern sense in the year of 1908 by Eugen Bleuler while dealing with schizophrenic patients. In 1943, 11 children were studied by American child psychiatrist (mind doctor) Leo Kanner. He found that these children had aspects of problems or delays in social interactions, adjusting to changes in routines, good memory, sensitivity to stimuli, refusal to accept, as well as strong body reactions to food, echolalia and repetitive behaviors. A year later in 1944, Hans Asperger also studied a group of children and results were similar to Leo Kanner’s descriptions. Despite that, the group of children he studied did not have echolalia (echoing the speech of others without understanding it) as a language-based problem but spoke like adults. Hans Asperger also talked about that several of the children studied were quite maladroit and different from ordinary children with fine motor skills.

        Not long after, Bruno Bettelheim who studied the outcome of three therapy sessions with autistic children argued that the problem in the children with autism was because of the lack of affection of their mothers. Both Leo Kanner and Bruno Bettelheim himself tested this hypothesis by separating the children from their parents; this resulted to the hypothesis being somewhat true. A parent of an autistic child and psychologist Bernard Rimland disagreed with Bruno Bettelheim’s hypothesis. He believed that a parent’s parenting skills are not the cause of autism. In the 1970s, autism spectrum disorder was better known and well-studied, including starting an education and therapy for psychotic children. Unfortunately, several parents were still very puzzled with autism and mental retardation. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when Hans Asperger’s work was translated into the English language; because of this, the research on autism spectrum disorder obtained speed.

        Research gained information and proved that parenting had no role in causing children to have autism. There were never-based disruptions and other genetic illnesses like tuberous sclerosis (body-tissue hardening), metabolic disruptions or problems with genes like fragile X syndrome. In Sweden during the 1980’s, two members of the Children’s Neuro-Psychiatric Clinic Lorna Wing and Christopher Gillberg found out about the triple group of disrupted common contact, disrupted communication and limited imagination. They added another factor in the 1990s, which was the limitation of the ability to plan. The study of autism continued by Ole Ivar Lovaas. He also furthered behavioral analysis and treatment of autistic children. He succeeded with one of his experimental behavior analyses and continued to expand his experiment to younger children of the ages of five.

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