Childhood autism

I. Kolvin

In: Mental Handicap a Multi-Disciplinary Approach 1985; 147-161

With thanks to Elsevier for their support for this project and for giving permission to reproduce this chapter.

Cite as: 

Reprinted from Mental Handicap a Multi-Disciplinary Approach, M. Craft, J. Bicknell and S. Hollins (eds.), "Childhood autism", I. Kolvin, pp.147-161, (©Bailliere Tindall, 1985).


Strange and bizarre behaviour in young children holds a particular fascination both for professionals and for the lay public. The notion that clusters of such types of behaviour represented psychosis, perhaps different types of psychosis, or perhaps even a unitary psychosis related to adult schizophrenia, slowly began to dawn in the second half of the twentieth century. In the period leading up to the 1950s eponymous labelling of such clusters was rife, but the only label which has stood the test of time is Kanner's (1943) clear and brilliant descriptive account of the behavioural abnormalities of 'infantile autism'.

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