Illustration of Autism

1938,1943 Autism

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Hans Asperger, Leo Kanner psychiatry Illustration of Autism


Hans Asperger used the terms autistic psychopathy to describe children who were socially isolated, physically clumsy, and lacked nonverbal communication skills and empathy toward others. Leo Kanner used the terms early infantile autism to describe intelligent children who fiercely wanted to be alone and had “an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness.” A range of abnormal behavioral symptoms, from mild to severe, affect people who may not have autism but have autistic-like traits to people who are unable to cope in our crowded and disorderly world.

Concern for others

Dr. Leo Kanner, the father of child psychiatry, had concern for mentally ill people who were taken into homes as servants, and for the wellbeing of mentally disabled children. He and his wife helped many Jewish physicians who were threatened by the Nazis to get jobs in the United States.

Disorder or difference

Is it early-onset Alzheimer’s, or am I merely forgetful, as usual? My joints are creaky in the morning; am I getting arthritis? Sometimes I want only to be alone. Later I think what I wish I had told people. Why is everything always changing? The range of normality is wide but it could be wider. Differences between individuals often exceed differences between groups.

Some people seem to be blessed with the ignorance of not knowing how strange they really are. If our ability to see similarities were as keen as our ability to see differences, then I think we would all be happier.

See also in The book of science:

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