Some of you may be wondering when exactly autism was recognised as a disorder. When did the disorder known as autism first become noticeable? The term “autistic” was initially used in the first decade of the 20th century to describe the symptoms of those with the disorder. Eugen Blueler coined the phrase “schizophrenia symptoms” in 1912.
The term “autism” was not coined for diagnostic purposes until 1943. Dr. Leo Kanner created the word “autism” to describe a person with social and emotional difficulties in the first known case of autism. Psychiatrists had previously observed patients with autism-like symptoms and diagnosed them with schizophrenia. Dr. Kanner eventually applied the autism diagnosis to eleven of his patients, but the story eventually begins with Donald Triplett.
Who Was The First Person To Be Diagnosed With Autism?
For the first time, autism was identified in a person named Donald Triplett. In 1933, he was born into a family in Forest, Mississippi. In their little town, everyone knew and admired him and his family. Donald had already been institutionalised prior to his autism diagnosis. At the time, this was rather usual for kids with mental illness diagnosis. When a child is diagnosed with a behavioural condition, parents are often advised to institutionalise them.
Donald was taken from his house in Forest and placed in a facility in Sanatorium, Mississippi, almost 50 miles away. His mom and dad were only permitted to visit once a month. At the age of three, Donald was placed in the institution where he stayed for a whole calendar year.
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His relatives worried about him since he became more reclusive while he was there. His parents, against the advice of his doctors, returned him home after a year at the facility. The two of them were bound and determined to discover the truth for Donald and themselves.
Whom Did Donald’s Parents Find To Seek Help From?
Donald’s parents started consulting with experts to better understand what was best for their kid. In the process of looking, they found Dr. Leo Kanner. Dr. Kanner was a renowned child psychiatrist and a respected professor at Johns Hopkins.
Donald’s father sent Dr. Kanner some notes he had written about his observations with regard to Donald’s behavioural features during the initial evaluation. You can see the tweet below in which it is said that Donald Triplett was the first to be diagnosed with autism.
In case anyone is curious, his name is Donald Triplett! ^^ pic.twitter.com/d5EyInnFpf
— RainyTalesVA (@RainyTalesVA) February 25, 2023
These very detailed notes were very helpful for Dr. Kanner in figuring out the language and patterns of behaviour that fit with the diagnosis of autism. The doctor described him as “happiest when left alone,” “drawing into a shell and living inside himself,” and “oblivious to anything around him.”
What Were The Observations Of Dr. Kanner?
Dr. Kanner had his own impressions of Donald after meeting him in person. He noticed that Donald’s language was explosive and seemed unrelated. He talked about himself in the third person, repeated words and phrases that were said to him, and told people what he wanted by saying that they wanted it. You may also check the official tweet by PBS North Carolina below in which “In a Different Key,” story of Donald Triplett, premeired on 13th December, 2022.
Donald Triplett was the first diagnosed case of autism in 1943. One filmmaker’s decision to meet Donald leads her on a journey of love, difference and the fight to belong.
“In A Different Key” premieres Tuesday, December 13th at 9 PM on PBS NC and streaming. #DifferentKeyPBS pic.twitter.com/a1VLjKqP5v
— PBS North Carolina (@MyPBSNC) December 9, 2022
Dr. Kanner repeatedly referred to the term “autistic,” which had been coined by Eugen Blueler many years before to characterise his own patients’ behaviours. He termed these findings as autistic disruptions of affective interaction. In The Nervous Child, Dr. Kanner wrote about what he had learned about autism. He gave details about behaviour patterns and things he noticed that were same in all eleven patients he looked at.
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