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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Autism Spectrum Disorders: Genetic Testing. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Autism: Historical Perspective

The term autism was first used by psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1908 when he described a schizophrenic patient who had withdrawn into his own world. Taken from the Greek word ''autós," which means self, Bleuler used the word “autism” to describe the morbid self-admiration and withdrawal of his schizophrenic patient. In the 1940s, researchers in the United States began using the term autism to describe children with emotional or social problems. In 1943, child psychiatrist Leo Kanner used the term to describe the withdrawn behavior of several children. At the same time, the German scientist Hans Asperger identified a similar condition which was later called Asperger syndrome.
The term autism remained linked to schizophrenia (and was often used interchangeably) until the 1960s. However, medical professionals during this time began using the term to describe autism in children. From the 1960s through the 1970s, research on autism focused on medications and behavioral changes to treat the disorder. It was not until the 1980s and 1990s that the role of behavioral therapy and highly controlled learning environments began to emerge as primary treatments for the various forms of autism and related conditions. In addition, research indicated that parenting had little (if any) role in the causation of autism and there were neurological disturbances and other genetic ailments that could be involved in the disorder.
Today, autism and schizophrenia are considered two separate conditions that have some similarities (eg, impairments in social interaction and communication). In 2013, Asperger syndrome was folded into the single diagnosis autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The current cornerstones of autism therapy are behavioral therapy and language therapy. Other treatments are added as needed.