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Importance of Understanding the History and Background of Autism

Importance of Understanding the History and Background of Autism

Importance of Understanding the History and Background of Autism

Autism was thought to be a range of conditions, such as schizophrenia before it was known as autism. The meaning of the word ‘autism’ is a reasonably new concept. Leo Kanner identified autism in 1943. The condition was initially named ‘early infantile autism.’ (Tarbox & Tarbox, 2017). With the shifting views of what autism was, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) evolved. The current version of the DSM introduced the term’ autism spectrum disorder.’ Knowing the journey that autism has taken is of great importance; as time has passed, autism’s criteria have changed. This has reflected a growing understanding among researchers. With greater awareness, the ability to create ABA programs

There seemed to be an expectation that you must be a full-time professional in parenting autism. There were often theories, such as the refrigerator mother theory, that stated autism was caused by parents who were emotionally cold or dead. Unfortunately, it was the mothers who took most of the blame. Waltz (2015) stated that as well as Bruno Bettelheim’s refrigerator theory, other influential theorists, such as Margaret Mahler, Melanie Klein, and Frances Tustin, identified aberrant parenting as the cause of autism. As we know, the claims made are not valid. There has also been a link between autism and the MMR jab. Like the refrigerator theory, people will believe what they are told if they are not educated or made aware of scientific studies to debunk the false statements. Without understanding the history and learning from mistakes, we would never be able to provide evidence-based services or treatments that are proven to show long-term and socially significant behavior changes.


Tarbox, J., & Tarbox, C. (2016). Training manual for behavior technicians working with individuals with autism. Academic Press. (Paperback ISBN: 9780128094082 eBook ISBN: 9780128122167)

Waltz M. M. (2015). Mothers and autism: the evolution of a discourse of blame. AMA Journal of Ethics, 17(4), 353–358.


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Importance of Understanding the History and Background of Autism

Importance of Understanding the History and Background of Autism

Discuss the importance of understanding the history and background of autism, how it has impacted ABA treatments for autism, and the general guiding philosophy of ABA programs. What has the history of autism taught us about pseudoscience like refrigerator mothers?

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