Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

The first boy diagnosed as autistic

27 Jan 2016Donald Grey Triplett born in 1933 was the first person to be diagnosed as autistic.

His parents knew he was different from other children. He didn't communicate the same way, nor did he have the same interests as other children his age. He always seemed to be in his own world.

At the age of 3, doctors recommended that he be institutionalised. This was a common practise at the time for children that were deemed to have strayed too far from what was considered normal. His parents were told to move on with their life and forget about him.

While they did put him in an institution in 1937, they never forgot about him. Visiting him monthly, and finally bringing him home in 1938. Once home they took him to see Dr Leo Kanner. After several visits Dr Kanner established a new diagnosis, and published a paper about autism.

Skip forward to 2016, Donald is now 82 and has done alright for himself. He eventually attended both high school and college. Thanks to the dedication of his mother in helping him connect with the world, and thanks to his intelligence and desire to learn.

Now days he still lives in the house he grew up in and enjoys the content life of a retiree, where he pursues his hobbies of golf and travel. While he still has trouble holding a conversation, the surrounding community accepts him for who he is. He is described as someone who has a fully-fledged personality, is a pleasure to hang out with, and a friend.

This wouldn't have been possible had his parents stuck with the recommendation of doctors. It's sad to think of all those lives there were never lived because they were institutionalised for being too different, or too much effort to help. But it's good that we have moved away from the practise of putting autistic people in a room and ignoring them.

The full article on Donald can be found here - Donald Grey Triplett


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