In 2023, there likely aren’t many individuals left in the world who haven’t encountered, or at the very least heard of, a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We have made giants strides after identifying autism as a neurodevelopmental disorder, and not as a symptom of schizophrenia, as we had previously done from 1908 to 1943 (The Recovery Village, 2022).
As we further made leaps away from the notion that “bad parenting” or “refrigerator mothers” caused autism, we found ourselves in the throes of what some consider to be an autism epidemic and research on autism has skyrocketed. It is beneficial to know the history of autism so that we know where we have evolved from and avoid making past mistakes involving everything from research to treatment applications.
Let’s explore how education and resources have evolved for individuals diagnosed with autism and some great resources for the autism community in the State of Nevada.
Important events in autism history
1911- The concept of autism was introduced as a symptom of childhood schizophrenia by German psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (Evans, 2013)
1943– Autism becomes its own standalone diagnosis
1965– The Sybil Elgar School begins teaching and caring for children with autism (Iannelli, 2020). First meeting of what used to be called National Society of Autistic Children, today known as Autism Society of America (Iannelli, 2020).
1975- The Education for All Handicapped Children was formed and implemented, giving, and protecting the rights of adequate education to children with disabilities who had previously been excluded from school settings(Iannelli, 2020).
1980- Autism became its own diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, divided into 4 distinct categories and the notion of accompanying hallucinations was discarded (The Recovery Village, 2022)
1987- Ivar Lovaas publishes the first research paper addressing observed increases in autism symptoms following intensive behavioral therapy – a historical event and turning point for the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (The Recovery Village, 2022)
1988- The movie “Rain Man” was released, portraying an autistic scholar and thus, increasing both public awareness of the diagnosis of autism and introducing the first stereotypes of the abilities of those with the disorder (The Recovery Village, 2022)
1990– U.S. Congress passed several laws regarding the inclusion of autism in special education/ disability categories so that children with autism could receive special education services (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.).
2013- The DSM-5 was published, combining the 4 previous categories of autism into one diagnosis and instead, now considering autism as a “spectrum disorder”
The timeline and historical progression of the autism spectrum diagnosis is fascinating and tells us that there is still much ground to cover in research and beyond. Our world has progressed from the assumption that autism is a component of childhood schizophrenia and caused by cold, emotionally distant mothers to recognizing autism as both a standalone diagnosis and spectrum disorder.
As such, educational and community resources have flourished and continued to develop enriching programs for individuals diagnosed with autism from ages 18 months through adulthood. In the community in the State of Nevada, many great organizations have formed that aim to give individuals diagnosed with autism the earliest and best resources available for them to either grow into independent, thriving adults or maintain an autonomous and rewarding lifestyle.
Nevada resources for autism spectrum disorder
FEAT – Families for Effective Autism Treatment- of Southern Nevada
A support network consisting of parents and professionals who have some connection to the Autism community. They work on global outreach and advocacy, local resources including therapy and support groups, and guidance through what can be a very challenging diagnosis for many families.
Nevada Educational Advocacy and Tutoring Services, LLC – NEAT
This group is an active part of the community, fostering educational advocacy and offering tutoring services to children with special needs
Advocate 4 Kids, LLC
Founder Cheryl Jung is a special education advocate for individuals with Autism ages 3-20
This organization is present in the entire state of Nevada and helps parents with children from birth through age 26 to raise awareness, hold training workshops, and give support to individuals with Autism and their families.
The mission of this Nevada state resource is unique in that it is an integrated approach to combining behavioral healthcare needs with those of a primary healthcare provider. Located in Southern Nevada, support is offered for children through age 18, with an emphasis on the quality-of-life care needed for children who are medically fragile, medically dependent, and/or developmentally delayed.
Grant a Gift Autism Foundation Ackerman Center
Not-for-profit provider located in Nevada with a mission to provide clinical, support, and vocational programs and services to individuals with Autism and their families. This unique organization also provides ways for families to get involved with their community, raise awareness, and raise much-needed funds for Autism research.
Autism Treatment Assistance Program (ATAP)
The State of Nevada provides parents in need of temporary support in getting appropriate services for their child with Autism. They provide funds for evidence-based practices, such as those in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
Northern Nevada Autism Network (NNAN)
NNAN helps families living with ASD with funding for respite care, tutors, and funding for treatment or evaluation/diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. NNAN also helps with scholarships towards audio output devices, online classes for behavioral training, and biomedical treatment. NNAN may also be able to provide social skills groups for ASD teens and teaching resources for local county schools.
Northern Nevada R.A.V.E Family (RAVE)
RAVE is a not-for-profit organization providing respite care to parents and caregivers of young or adult children who have special needs.
Located in and working with Northern Nevada, this organization offers everything from education and advocacy to helping lower-income families with durable medical equipment. A unique shop is set up to help fund this program and older teens and young adults with special needs are welcomed on staff to gain valuable insight and experience in the working world.
Located out of Reno, NV, this community organization helps fund advocacy and education programs for special groups such as first responders. They also offer respite care and community events to foster inclusion and support in the local community.
Nevada Educational Advocacy Center for Children & Youth
A local non-profit seeking to help families with children who have special needs to navigate the special education process. Help is available regarding disability laws, IEP planning and more.
Nevada Autism Center
A relatively new autism therapy center, Nevada Autism Center is located in Las Vegas, and provides services to children needing various amounts of support and teaching. Lead BCBA Chantal Rainford has extensive experience serving diverse population and has the unique perspective of being an autism parent with a child who has received ABA services for several years. Nevada Autism Center, 7730 West Sahara Avenue #115, Las Vegas, NV 89117, (702) 660-2005
It is truly a gift that education, resources, and research have come as far as they have in the advancement of the lives of individuals diagnosed with autism. Current research is working to identify the specific genes associated with the development of autism in utero and this discovery could open doors to treatment methods and even potentially, a cure, one day.
It is important that parents and caregivers continue to advocate in their communities and beyond so their children will continue to obtain better and more effective treatments as they develop into adulthood.
Evans, B. (2013). How autism became autism: The radical transformation of a central concept of child development in Britain. History of the Human Sciences, 26(3), 3–31. https://doi.org/10.1177/0952695113484320
Iannelli, V. (2020). A history and timeline of autism. Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/autism-timeline-2633213#citation-6
The Recovery Village (2022). The history of autism. Retrieved from https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/autism/history-of-autism/
U.S. Dept of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.