Fairytales Tell of Autistic Children

Hmmm… here I am browsing online again instead of doing housework ..procrastination is something I’m very good at! I thought this next article was worthy of inclusion here, and I will probably add anything else I happen to find related to this topic too.

Fairytales tell of autistic children

Catriona Purcell
ABC Science Online
Friday, 25 February 2005

Fairytales and folklore dating back hundreds of years contain evidence of autism, say Australian researchers.

Their findings, published in the current issue of the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, suggest autism existed long before it was formally recognised in 1943.

Dr Julie Leask, from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases in Sydney, and colleagues looked at tales from the UK, Germany and Scandinavia.

Leask, whose previous research has examined parents’ concerns about immunisation, says the stories also support the argument that autism is not a result of today’s environment or recent technologies such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Leask was prompted to do the study after hearing a mother tell a current affair’s program on autism it was as if “the girl I gave birth to has been stolen”.

Leask says several stories describe children believed to have been stolen by fairies who then left behind a strange, sickly, “changeling” child.

“The description of changelings is very similar to those given to autistic children,” she says.

“Changelings were described as unresponsive, resistant to affection, did not express emotion, cried a lot or did not speak.”

Today autism is a considered a neurological disorder and includes an inability to form normal social relationships, stereotyped and repetitive behaviours, as well as disordered verbal and non-verbal communication.

Leask says the stories contain instructions on preventing a child being stolen, how to check if a child really was a changeling and how to control their behaviour.

“It is believed stories are non-scientific communities’ way of explaining and cope with disabled children,” she says, “a sort of guide to parenting.”

She says the cause of autism was still not known and over the years society had tried to explain the disorder in different ways.

“Now [we] have some evidence that autism is not simply a result of modern society’s environment or technologies,” Leask says. “However whether they contribute to a predisposition in individuals we still don’t know.”

(From http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1309455.htm)
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