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A history of child development in Britain

This book explains the current fascination with autism by linking it to a longer history of childhood development. Drawing from a staggering array of primary sources, it traces autism back to its origins in the early twentieth century and explains why the idea of autism has always been controversial and why it experienced a 'metamorphosis' in the 1960s and 1970s. The book locates changes in psychological theory in Britain in relation to larger shifts in the political and social organisation of schools, hospitals, families and childcare. It explores how government entities have dealt with the psychological category of autism. The book looks in detail at a unique children's 'psychotic clinic' set up in London at the Maudsley Hospital in the 1950s. It investigates the crisis of government that developed regarding the number of 'psychotic' children who were entering the public domain when large long-stay institutions closed. The book focuses on how changes in the organisation of education and social services for all children in 1970 gave further support to the concept of autism that was being developed in London's Social Psychiatry Research Unit. It also explores how new techniques were developed to measure 'social impairment' in children in light of the Seebohm reforms of 1968 and other legal changes of the early 1970s. Finally, the book argues that epidemiological research on autism in the 1960s and 1970s pioneered at London's Institute of Psychiatry has come to define global attempts to analyse and understand what, exactly, autism is.

‘psychotic’ children By the early 1950s, children classed with ‘psychosis’, ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘autism’ stood at the heart of controversies over the social and emotional development of children, as well as the role of parents, educators, social workers and other agencies in the socialisation of those children. Childhood psychosis was, therefore, an

in The metamorphosis of autism

drives, the basis of unconscious thought, could not be measured in the same way as intelligence. Although Gesell’s social development scales and Isaacs’ theory of social development were creating new models of psychological development in infancy and childhood and the formation of subjectivity and subjective awareness, no one had attempted to

in The metamorphosis of autism

foundation theory of the origins of human relationships as he focused on building statistical and social scientific methodologies. As discussed in Part one, the 1940s and 1950s saw, human relations psychology, and the theories of childhood psychosis, schizophrenia, autoerotism, primary narcissism and autism within it, enter into a general discourse of child development and subjectivity

in The metamorphosis of autism
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development. This was, in some ways, a development of Romantic ideals of childhood formed in the eighteenth century, but the late nineteenth century saw children’s rights to unique legal protection established in both the law and in the theory of political economy. The creation of School Boards in England in 1870 to educate poor communities, and the introduction of compulsory education

in The metamorphosis of autism
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development and childhood imagination and creativity. 6 These changing ‘styles of reasoning’ about autism are being driven by legal, political and social change as much as scientific developments. They are generating new perspectives on autism, sometimes highlighting research that had subsided whilst Wing’s research was dominating the field. At the same time, several researchers have started to

in The metamorphosis of autism
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Perceiving, describing and modelling child development

. This book argues that increased rates of autism are, in large part, a product of a major transition in the way that general child development has been thought about, reflected upon, conceptualised and perceived. This major transition in the psychological description of childhood began to take place in the 1960s in Britain and was fully established by the 1990s. The British context is particularly important in the story

in The metamorphosis of autism

all psychological problems in childhood was significant and continued to generate effects. How British sociology met autism By the early 1970s, the thriving interest in autism and its causes amongst a new generation of epidemiological and experimental psychologists was coupled with a growing critique of approaches to child development based on the

in The metamorphosis of autism

childhood psychological development. Autism’s success must be viewed within this context. International development and the first wave of epidemiological studies It was after Wing and Gould’s 1979 epidemiological study that reported rates of autism began to increase. During the 1980s, Victor Lotter’s attempts to instigate discussion about different rates

in The metamorphosis of autism
The case of the Netherlands

breakthrough opened the way to development of vaccines against a variety of viral diseases. A vaccine against polio, that ‘dread disease’, was the first priority, and – encouraged in the USA by President Roosevelt – it attracted the attention of numerous research groups, in universities as well as in pharmaceutical companies. Jonas Salk, at the University of Pittsburgh, developed the first polio vaccine to be successfully tested and

in The politics of vaccination