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.
predicament of ‘psychotic’ children who did not fit
into prior classification systems.
In 1963, the term ‘autistic’ was
beginning to be used frequently in administrative literature,
following the lead of parent campaigners. In 1963, the Standing
Health Advisory Committee was sent a memorandum from SAC written by
John and Lorna Wing of the SocialPsychiatryResearchUnit at the
Perceiving, describing and modelling child development
Occupational Psychiatry Research Unit, later renamed the SocialPsychiatryResearchUnit in 1958, which was funded by the Medical
Research Council (MRC). It was there that researchers broke new ground
in social-scientific and epidemiological work on psychological problems.
This book argues that the intellectual climate created at this
institution built on significant research agendas in British sociology
‘autoerotism’ and ‘autism’ in attempting
to understand the most significant stages of children’s
psychological development, researchers at the SocialPsychiatryresearchunit studied ‘autism’ as an unknown category
that had the promise to elucidate the most significant stages of
socialisation and to explain the outcome of both social and sensory
deprivation. Instead of focusing on