Sunday, September 16, 2007

Avoiding Institutionalization is Key to a Good Outcome in Autism

I'll make this short, as it should be self-evident, even though you'll seldom if ever find this assertion in the modern autism literature. The following was said by Kanner about 11 of 96 (11%) autistic individuals who, upon follow-up in their 20s and 30s, he described as managing to "function as self-dependent individuals, mostly well educated and all gainfully employed."

Not one of them had at any time been subjected to sojourn in a state hospital or institution for the feebleminded. This seems to be significant in view of our experience that such an eventuality has invariably cut short any prospect for improvement (Kanner, 1965).

If you read the histories of the autistic individuals seen by Kanner, it is clear that this consistent lack of intitutionalization in the good-outcome group cannot be explained by "less severity" or anything of the sort. Most of the rest seem to have been institutionalized, judging by Kanner's original 1943 paper and its 1971 follow-up.

I'll leave that as food for thought for those who supposedly advocate for good outcomes in autism, at the same time that they promote the notion that autistics naturally belong in institutions.


  1. "Good outcomes" that could mean anything depending on who says it..
    institutions, group homes, semi-indpendent living, etc.

  2. BTW, I don't think Kanner used the phrase "good outcomes". I didn't know another way to characterize the group of autistics he sought to highlight.

    I have written about the "outcome" concept before here.