Disability Informatics & Information Open Resources

Resources for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Nicole Pawelski

April 4, 2019

Man reading with tablet nearby


The history of autism spectrum disorder (or ASD) is as complex and controversial as the condition itself. ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition that was first identified in the 1940s by Leo Kanner, an American child psychiatrist, and by Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician. Kanner’s work, which dominated the English-speaking world for decades, focused on children who were nonverbal and intellectually disabled, while Asperger’s work focused on highly verbal and intelligent children. However, all of them had difficulty with social interaction, preferred sameness in routines, and had restricted interests. British psychiatrist Lorna Wing brought these ideas together into an autism spectrum. For much of the 20th century, institutionalization was the only option for autistic children, but with the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, autistic children and adults could no longer be discriminated against in schools, public accommodations, and workplaces. Applied Behavior Analysis and the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children are two treatments that were developed in the 1960s and continue to be in use today. Recently, members of the neurodiversity movement have lobbied for autism acceptance rather than a cure. However, more research is needed to discover how the symptoms of ASD change over a person’s lifespan and what kind of supports would provide positive outcomes for autistic individuals at all ages and stages.

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