Essay by seamybUniversity, Bachelor's November 2005

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The term autistic disorder was first coined in 1943 by psychiatrist Leo Kanner. He used it to describe how eleven disturbed children behaved in ways that were not similar to mental retardation or schizophrenia. He named the syndrome early infantile autism as he observed that "there is a from the start an extreme aloneness that, whenever possible, disregards, ignores, shuts out anything that comes to the child from the outside". He found that these eleven children had been unable to relate to people in the normal way from the beginning of life. They were limited in language and had an obsessive desire for everything to remain the same.

Official acceptance of the disorder was delayed by general confusion in the classification of serious disorders that began in childhood. It was not accepted into official diagnostic nomenclature until the publication of DSM-II in 1980. DSM-II viewed autism as just an early-onset form of adult schizophrenia.

Autistic children do not exhibit hallucinations and delusions and do not grow up to be adult schizophrenics. Autism has a higher male - female ration than schizophrenia. The term pervasive developmental disorders was introduced in order to differentiate between autism and schizophrenia. The other pervasive developmental disorders include Rett's disorder, child disintegrative disorder and Asperger's disorder. DSM-IV was introduced to facilitate pervasive developmental disorders.

Rett's disorder is very rare and only found in girls. It begins in the first or second year of life when the girl's head growth begins to decelerate. She will lose ability to use her hand for purposeful movements and learns only poorly to speak and understand others. The child relates poorly to others although this may improve later in life. Childhood disintegrative disorder is characterised by a loss of social, play, language and motor skills by children who have had normal...