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Kanner's syndrome

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A serious disorder of early childhood usually presenting in the 2nd or 3rd years of life. The principal clinical features are lack of responsiveness to other human beings, with detachment from the parents or others; absence or abnormality of language development and speech; behaviour abnormality, with temper tantrums and repetitive activities; obsessive interest in small things, patterns, music, puzzles; insistence on preservation of sameness in environment. Many of the children are mentally retarded and 50 % show marked delay in motor milestones. The child appears alert and attractive in spite of odd behaviour.

The first description of what may have been an autistic child was done in 1801 by the French physician Jean Marc Gaspard Itard (1774-1838) in 1891. Itard's account is of a twelve year old boy who had lived for some time in a forest and had been captured naked the previous year. The boy, known as the «Sauvage de l’Aveyron», was named Victor by Itard. Victor had probably grown up without any form of human contact and never spoke.

See also Asperger's syndrome, under Hans Asperger, Austrian paediatrician, 1906-1980.

Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger were unaware of each other's work.


  • J. M. G. Itard:
    De l’éducation d’un homme sauvage, ou des premier développements physiques et moraux du jeune sauvage de l’Aveyron.
    Paris, Goujon fils, An X (1801). English translation, London, 1802.
  • Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939):
    Das autistische Denken.
    Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, Leipzig & Wien, volume 4, 1912.
    Bleuler coined the term autism, from the Greek word "Autos", which means self.
  • M. W. Barr:
    Some notes on echolalia with the report of an extraordinary case.
    The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1898, 25: 20-30.
    Barr described a 22-year-old retarded man with a phenomenal memory and echolalic speech
  • L. Kanner:
    Autistic disturbances of affective contact.
    The Nervous Child, New York, 1943, 2: 217-250.
  • H. Asperger:
    Die "autistischen Psychopathen" im Kindesalter.
    Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, Berlin, 1944, 117: 76-136.
  • L. Kanner:
    Irrelevant and Metaphorical Language in Early Infantile Autism.
    The American Journal of Psychiatry, 1946, 103: 242-246.
  • L. Kanner and L. Eisenberg:
    Early Infantile Autism 1943-1955.
    American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1956, 26: 55-65.
  • Samuil S. Mnukhin and D. N. Isaev:
    On the organic nature of some forms of schizoid or autistic psychopathy.
    Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1975, 5: 99-108.
    Mnukhin and Isaev found a high incidence of epileptic seizures in autistic children, indicating autism has an organic, neurological basis.

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