‘Early childhood autism, Asperger type’, by H. Asperger (1982)



The world of autism research has been abuzz with excitement following the publication of a fascinating paper in the journal History of Psychiatry (April 2024). Titled “Early childhood autism, Asperger type’, by H. Asperger (1982),” this research delves into a previously untranslated text by Hans Asperger, offering a fresh perspective on autism from the man whose name became synonymous with a specific subtype.


Unveiling Asperger’s Lost Work: New Insights into Autism


This newly translated work, written by Asperger in 1982, sheds light on his understanding of autism in children. It’s particularly noteworthy because his characterization differs from the widely used Wing triad, which emphasizes social interaction difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests.


Asperger describes autistic children in this text as exhibiting qualities like:

  • Sensitivity
  • Intelligence
  • Creativity
  • Rationality


This portrayal stands in contrast to the more commonly held view of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as primarily characterized by social and communication challenges. Asperger’s perspective challenges us to consider a more multifaceted view of autism in children.


The Curious Case of “Asperger’s Syndrome”


The research paper also delves into the historical context surrounding the term “Asperger’s Syndrome.” While Asperger’s work on autism predates the term itself, the concept emerged later and gained recognition with its inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) in 1994. Interestingly, the DSM-5, published in 2013, removed the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, opting instead for a broader autism spectrum disorder classification.


This historical journey of the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” highlights the evolving nature of our understanding of autism. As our knowledge base expands, diagnostic categories may need to be refined to reflect the complexities of the condition.


Reframing the Conversation: Autism Through a New Lens


This recent publication by Asperger raises intriguing questions for the autism research community. Do the descriptions of autistic children in his work fall within the current understanding of ASD, or do they represent a distinct category?


Further exploration of this question could lead to a more nuanced understanding of the autism spectrum. Perhaps Asperger’s observations point towards subcategories within the broader ASD diagnosis, allowing for more tailored support and intervention strategies.


Beyond Rediscovery: The Significance of Asperger’s Work


The rediscovery of Asperger’s work holds immense significance for several reasons. Firstly, it offers a valuable opportunity to revisit our understanding of autism in children. By examining these historical perspectives alongside contemporary research, we can continue to refine our approach to diagnosis.


Secondly, Asperger’s work emphasizes the importance of recognizing the strengths and unique qualities of autistic individuals. His descriptions highlight aspects of sensitivity, intelligence, and creativity that can be nurtured and celebrated.


Finally, this research underscores the need for ongoing exploration within the field of autism. Asperger’s work serves as a reminder that our understanding of this complex condition is constantly evolving. By embracing new discoveries and diverse perspectives, we can work towards a future where all individuals on the autism spectrum are supported and empowered to reach their full potential.


This rediscovered work by Asperger is a testament to the importance of historical research in informing the future of autism studies. By combining these valuable insights with ongoing research efforts, we can continue to improve the lives of autistic individuals and their families.




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