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Fri Jun 20, 2014, 06:22 AM


Dr. Lorna Wing, Who Broadened Views of Autism, Dies at 85


...Dr. Wing helped redraw the map of a behavioral terrain that was virtually unheard-of until the mid-20th century and that now, partly as a result of her insights, is said to affect the lives of roughly one out of every 70 people in the world. She is widely credited with recognizing autism as a spectrum of related problems, rather than as a single condition.

She is best known for rediscovering the work of Hans Asperger, an Austrian psychiatrist who first described a form of autism in a group of intelligent, verbally adroit boys who were indifferent to their schoolwork but intensely interested in one or two subjects, like trains, dinosaurs or royal genealogy. The “little professors,” as he called them, shared many of the usual problems common to autism: inability to make friends, repetitive behaviors, distress at any break in routine.

Dr. Asperger’s paper challenged the commonly held belief of the day that all autistic children were cognitively disabled or schizophrenic. But his findings, published in Switzerland in 1944, went almost completely unnoticed during World War II.

Decades later, his paper had still not been translated from German to English when Dr. Wing obtained a copy. With a translator’s help, she described its findings in a paper of her own, “Asperger’s Syndrome: A Clinical Account,” published in 1981. (She relabeled the disorder with Asperger’s name, she said, because the term he originally used, “autistic psychopathy,” might suggest violent behavior.) Until the publication of Dr. Wing’s paper, said Scott Badesch, president of the Autism Society, an American organization, “no one had heard of Asperger’s except Asperger.”...

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