A Clinical and Phenomenological Investigation of Early Infantile Autism

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Dieterle, Margaret
Harry Smith
John Ward
Bill Huber
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A Clinical and Phenomenological Investigation of Early Infantile Autism
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The enigma of early Infantile autism has interested and yet baffled students of human behavior since it was first described by Or, Leo Kanner in 1943. Its relationship to various conditions such as childhood schizophrenia, brain damage, primary mental retardation, and even normalcy has been probed, discussed, and debated over the years. In his first paper, Kanner differentiated autism from childhood schizophrenia, stating that "the autistic child failed to relate to people from the beginning of life while the childhood schizophrenic removed himself after a period of affective contact with people." 1 Later, Kanner (1948) he stated that infantile autism does not resemble any organic condition, that it is the earliest from of childhood schizophrenia. 2 Kanner, (1955) stated his belief that Intellectual impairment in these children results from “emotional determinants." 3 From this brief overview one is able to contemplate the difficulties and confusion encountered by the label "Infantile autism." In the span of ten years, one leading authority, cited, above revised his operational definition substantially. Thus, it is ny intent to integrate the newer knowledge of childhood autism as complete social aphasia with marked Central Nervous System disorganization. Autism comes from the Greek word "autos" meaning "self" and it is a "specific syndrome of organic brain disease characterized by basic inability to transform auditory experience into the meaningful patterns for understanding the surrounding world." 4 The resulting communication problems, behavior abnormalities, learning difficulties and emotional dilemmas lead to secondary handicaps with disturbed family relationships. All of these disorders have a common denominator based on man’s ability to be autistic. Each case of childhood autism poses an individual problem in which all factors derived from the neurological status, emotional reactions, and social needs roust be examined before an appropriate training and educational program can be designed. The search for a simplified procedure or a universally applicable formula is fruitless because no generalized approach applies to such an individualized syndrome. There is only one diagnosis but many forms of therapy. The problems of autistic children are always the same but the solutions differ with each child. It will be these two aspects then, the problems and the solutions, which I will direct myself in the following pages.
Degree Awarded
Communication Studies