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Solitary persons?

The conceptualisation of autism as a contact disorder by Frankl, Asperger, and Kanner
PhD ceremony:dr. F. Boven
When:February 03, 2022
Supervisors:prof. dr. D. (Douwe) Draaisma, prof. dr. P. de Jonge
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Solitary persons?

Solitary persons? describes the autism theories of George Frankl (1897-1975), Hans Asperger (1906-1980) and Leo Kanner (1894-1981). These medical doctors were among the first to work with autistic children. Frankl’s role in the history of autism has only been discovered in 2015 and is further clarified here. Asperger and Kanner are well-known as the founders of autism research, but the dissertation presents new discoveries about their work and a new interpretation of their theories as a whole.

Frankl, Asperger and Kanner each have a metaphor for autistic children. Frankl’s metaphor was that of ‘prisoners’: he believed that autistic children, even when they are among people, are stuck in a solitary state, in which it is not self-evident to express how you feel. Asperger’s metaphor for autistic chil-dren was that they are ‘machines’. He believed that autism involves an overde-velopment of intellect and of autonomy vis-à-vis the environment. Kanner wrote that autistic children are ‘barometers’ who are sensitive to the emotional climate in their home, as he believed that autism is an emotional disorder that affects and is affected by the whole personality. Contemporary theories of autism often explain only some of the symptoms of autism. This conceptual-historical study is a search for an older theory of autism that did cover all of its symptoms.