A Look At The History of Autism Over The Last 65 Years.
  (November 13, 2015)

A discussion of their personal history with autism over the past 65 years with Eustacia Cutler, Temple Grandin’s mother and Gary Mesibov, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill for 35 years and director of  Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) for 35 years until 2012.

This discussion will look at the development in treatment of autism beginning with the arrival of Bruno Bettelheim, a psychotherapist from Vienna who believed that Autistic children were schizophrenic because they had been driven mad by their cold mothers. Dr. Mesibov will talk about Eric Schopler, came to this country to study under Bettelheim at his school in Chicago, only to be horrified by Bettelheim’s cruelty—not only to parents, but to autistic children placed under his care by intimated parents. Schopler left Bettelheim’s school to start TEACCH, his own school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Schopler must have read Rimland’s book detailing this: Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior.   Schopler and Rimland joined forces to set up the first meeting of the Autism Society of America.  (ASA).  Rimland’s book, and Schopler’s TEACCH created a new approach to autism, one that laid the foundation for the way we work with autism today.  Other leaders in the field who have opened doors for our ideas today will be discussed, including Leo Kanner– an important psychiatrist who was the first to define autism in the USA and the first to believe that mothers were to blame and who apologized to the mothers at that first ASA meeting and Richard Pollak who wrote a telling book The Creation of Dr. B.*, (1997) on Bettleheim to dispel the myth of man and his ideas of the refrigerator mother.

 

Dr. Gary Mesibov

Mesibov was a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill for 35 years. From 1992 to 2012, he was the director of UNC Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) faculty.  TEACCH, founded by UNC psychiatry and psychology professor Eric Schopler, is a “pioneering” program for assisting with autism spectrum disorder education, research and service delivery for children and adults. As a result of his work, he is an internationally recognized leader in autism research and practice.

Mesibov served as Associate Editor on the Journal of Pediatric Psychology (JPP) and Editor for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The journal, which publishes 10 issues per year, is a scholarly journal that focuses on all aspects of autism spectrum disorders and related developmental disabilities.

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