How Was Autism Treated In The 1990s


In the 1990s, the understanding and treatment of autism were vastly different from what we know today. Back then, there was limited knowledge about the condition, leading to various approaches and methods being used to address the needs of individuals with autism. This period marked a pivotal time in the evolution of autism treatment, with both successes and challenges in the quest to support those with the condition.

**During the 1990s, autism treatment primarily focused on behavioral interventions and therapies. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) emerged as a prominent approach, aiming to shape and reinforce desired behaviors while minimizing challenging ones. ABA programs often included intensive one-on-one therapy sessions, targeting specific skills and behaviors. Additionally, speech and language therapy played a crucial role in developing communication skills for individuals with autism. Occupational therapy was also utilized to enhance sensory integration and motor skills. These approaches, although valuable in their time, were limited in addressing the complex nature of autism.**

How Were Autistic People Treated In The 1900s?

In the 1900s, the treatment of autistic people was vastly different from how it is today. Autism was not widely understood, and there was a lack of awareness and acceptance surrounding the condition. Autistic individuals were often misunderstood and labeled as “mentally defective” or “insane.” They were commonly institutionalized in asylums or mental hospitals, where they faced neglect, mistreatment, and isolation.

Many methods used to treat autistic people during this time were based on the belief that their behavior needed to be controlled or corrected. Harsh and punitive approaches, such as physical restraints, electroconvulsive therapy, and even lobotomies, were employed in an attempt to suppress autistic traits and behaviors. These methods were not only ineffective but also caused significant harm and trauma to the individuals.

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Additionally, autistic children were often excluded from mainstream education and placed in special schools or institutions. The focus was on discipline and conformity rather than understanding and supporting their unique needs. This further perpetuated the isolation and marginalization of autistic individuals, denying them the opportunities for education, social interaction, and personal development that their neurotypical peers had access to.

Was Autism Common In The 90s?

In the 1990s, the prevalence of autism was not as well understood or recognized as it is today. The diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have evolved over time, leading to differences in identification and reporting. Additionally, awareness and understanding of autism were relatively limited in the 90s, resulting in fewer cases being diagnosed or reported. Therefore, it is challenging to determine the exact prevalence of autism in the 90s accurately.

However, it is important to note that autism has always existed, even though it may not have been as commonly diagnosed or discussed during that time. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) underwent significant revisions in the 90s, which contributed to better recognition and understanding of autism. The shift from a narrow definition of autism to a broader spectrum approach in the DSM-IV in 1994 likely resulted in increased identification and diagnosis of individuals with autism.

Although there may not have been as many reported cases of autism in the 90s compared to the present, it does not mean that the condition was less common. It is more likely that there was a lack of awareness, understanding, and diagnostic tools during that time. With advancements in research, increased awareness, and improved diagnostic criteria, the prevalence of autism has increased over the years, leading to a better understanding and support for individuals on the autism spectrum.

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What Was Autism Called In The 90s?

In the 1990s, autism was commonly referred to as “autism” or “autistic disorder”. The diagnostic criteria and terminology used to describe autism have evolved over time, reflecting a better understanding of the condition and its spectrum. However, during the 90s, autism was generally recognized as a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), published in 1994, included autism under the category of “Pervasive Developmental Disorders” (PDD). Within this category, there were several specific subtypes, including autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). These terms were commonly used to diagnose and describe individuals with different levels of functioning and symptom severity.

It is important to note that the understanding and diagnosis of autism have significantly advanced since the 90s. In 2013, the DSM-5 was published, merging the previously separate subtypes of autism into a single diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD). This change aimed to encompass the broad range of symptoms and variations in functioning observed in individuals with autism. The term “ASD” is now widely used to describe the condition, emphasizing the heterogeneous nature of the disorder.

How Did They Treat Autism In The Past?

In the past, the treatment and understanding of autism were vastly different compared to today. Autism was not well understood, and many individuals with autism were misdiagnosed or labeled as having intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses. Due to this lack of understanding, the treatment approaches for autism varied significantly, often focusing on managing challenging behaviors rather than addressing the core symptoms of autism.

One common treatment method used in the past was institutionalization. Individuals with autism were often placed in psychiatric hospitals or residential facilities, where they would receive little to no specialized care or support. These institutions focused on controlling and managing the behaviors of individuals with autism rather than providing them with appropriate interventions and therapies that could help them lead fulfilling lives.

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Another historical approach to treating autism was psychoanalysis. Some clinicians believed that autism was caused by emotional disturbances or a lack of emotional bonding between the child and their parents. Psychoanalytic therapies, such as play therapy and talk therapy, were used in an attempt to address these perceived emotional issues. However, these approaches did not effectively address the core symptoms of autism or provide meaningful support for individuals with the condition.

In conclusion, the treatment of autism in the 1990s underwent significant changes, driven by a growing understanding of the condition and an increasing focus on evidence-based interventions. While the era was marked by mixed approaches and varying levels of acceptance, it laid the foundation for the progress we see today. The 1990s witnessed a shift from overly rigid and ineffective behavioral interventions to a more comprehensive and individualized approach, incorporating speech therapy, occupational therapy, and educational interventions. This period also saw the emergence of early intervention programs, aimed at providing support and interventions to children at a young age, leading to improved outcomes in the long run. Moreover, the 1990s brought about a greater recognition of the importance of involving families in the treatment process, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach that recognizes the unique needs and strengths of individuals with autism.

Looking back at the treatment of autism in the 1990s, it is evident that significant progress was made during this decade. Researchers, clinicians, and families worked tirelessly to challenge old beliefs, explore new interventions, and pave the way for a more compassionate and effective approach to autism treatment. Though there were challenges along the way, the 1990s marked a turning point in the understanding and treatment of autism. It served as a catalyst for the development of evidence-based practices and interventions that have since transformed the lives of individuals with autism and their families. As we move forward, it is crucial to reflect on the lessons learned from the past and continue to advocate for accessible, inclusive, and effective treatments for individuals with autism.


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