This year marks the Autism Research Institute’s 50th anniversary. As part of our year-long celebration, we have created a timeline of many of our major accomplishments. I would like to thank Denise Fulton, ARI’s administrative director, for creating this celebratory commemorative booklet about ARI. You can download a copy HERE or write to ARI for a hardcopy version.
Dr. Rimland’s son, Mark, is born in 1956. While an infant, Mark displays unusual behaviors. Rimland and his wife, Gloria, bring him to several pediatricians, but none of them provide any help. Rimland then reads an old college textbook that describes autism and soon realizes that parents, especially mothers, are blamed for causing autism in their children.
1964—Rimland publishes Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior. In the book, he argues convincingly that autism is biologically based and not a result of emotional trauma due to poor parenting. A 50th Anniversary edition of the book, along with updates written by researchers, was published in 2004.
1965—Rimland establishes the Autism Society of America (formerly known as the National Society for Autistic Children) to network parents of children on the autism spectrum as well as to promote the use of behavioral techniques commonly known today as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).
1967—The Institute for Child Behavior Research (renamed in the mid-1980s as the Autism Research Institute) is established with the aim to conduct, encourage, and fund research as well as to network scientists with one another and with parents.
1969 – Leo Kanner speaks at the first NCAC conference and states that parents do not cause autism in their children. Kanner once blamed parents, but he changed his thinking, primarily after reading Dr. Rimland’s Infantile Autism and corresponding with him.
1971—Rimland co-authors a study with Dr. Mary Coleman. This is one of the first biochemical studies on autism. They find a correlation between serotonin levels in blood platelets and his diagnostic checklist.
1973—Rimland publishes the first large-scale study on autism, involving 190 children on the autism spectrum. He concludes that vitamin B6 may be beneficial to many individuals on the spectrum. More than a dozen placebo-controlled double-blind studies have supported the use of vitamin B6.
1978—Rimland publishes an article titled “The Autistic Savant” in Psychology Today. He argues that the original term used to describe someone with an unlearned skill, “idiot savant,” should be replaced with the term “autistic savant.”
1984—Rimland retires from his job at the Navy and devotes himself full-time to autism. Edelson finishes his graduate training on the same day. Soon after, they begin a 20-year collaboration.
1986—Temple Grandin publishes her first book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic. Rimland edits the book and writes the foreword.
1987—Rimland publishes the first hard copy science newsletter on autism, the Autism Research Review International. The quarterly newsletter is still published today.
1988 —Because of Rimland’s publications on savant abilities, the producer of the movie Rain Man asks him to be the head consultant. Rimland reads the script and suggests that Raymond have autism rather than be mentally challenged.
1989—Edelson moves to Oregon and opens the Center for the Study of Autism (CSA) in Newberg, Oregon. Families throughout the world travel to Newberg to participate in research as well as learn how to help their children.
1992—ARI is the first autism organization to publicly criticize the use of the now-debunked therapy, Facilitated Communication (FC).
1993—Rimland is instrumental in guiding Catherine Maurice, author of Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family’s Triumph Over Autism, and helping her promote the book. The book is credited by many as creating widespread awareness about ABA throughout the U.S.
1994—Rimland and Edelson publish the first research paper examining the efficacy of auditory integration training (AIT). Recently Dr. Manuel Casanova replicated their findings, detecting significant improvement in individuals on the spectrum following auditory processing.
1995—ARI convenes the first international think tank on autism consisting of more than 30 researchers and experienced physicians. This is the first time that a group of professionals discuss GI issues associated with autism. Later, Rimland uses the title Defeat Autism Now! or DAN! to describe the biomedical approach to autism research.
1996—ARI publishes a 41-page booklet, Clinical Assessment Options for Children with Autism and Related Disorders: A Biomedical Approach, written by Drs. Sidney Baker and Jon Pangborn. (A total of five editions are published over a 10-year period.)
1997 —ARI begins to sponsor national conferences, called DAN! conferences.
1999—Edelson and Rimland release Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) to help researchers, parents, and therapists assess treatment efficacy. Parents also rely on the ATEC to monitor the progress of their children over time. As of 2016, over half a million ATECs have been completed.
2003—Edelson and Rimland co-edit a book titled, Treating Autism: Parent Stories of Hope and Success. A second, revised edition titled, Recovering Autistic Children is published in 2006. This is one of the first books to discuss the possibility of recovery.
2004—ARI funds gastrointestinal (GI) research ($100K) at Harvard/MassGeneral. These funds are used as “seed money” to start the Autism Treatment Network.
2006—Rimland passes away in November, 2006. The board selects Edelson to become executive director of ARI. Jane Johnson and Denise Fulton join Edelson to help move ARI’s grassroots efforts to a contemporary platform, allowing ARI to reach even more families and professionals worldwide.
2007—ARI publishes the book We Band of Mothers: Autism, My Son, and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, written by Judith Chinitz and Dr. Sidney M. Baker.
ARI premieres a monthly e-newsletter. Currently, there are more than 80,000 subscribers.
ARI collaborates with Unlocking Autism to sponsor a toll-free resource calling center.
ARI enters an agreement with the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and the University of Maryland to establish a tissue bank.
ARI begins a collaboration with the Autism Network for Hearing and Visually Impaired Persons.
ARI begins a Rural Outreach Pilot Project to provide needed information about autism to various regions in the U.S.
2008—ARI is instrumental in the publication of Families of Adults with Autism: Stories and Advice for the Next Generation. This is one of the first books to focus on adults on the spectrum.
2009—ARI enters an agreement with the Digestive Function Laboratory Repository at Massachusetts General Hospital.
ARI launches a two-day training program for nutritionists and dietitians at its national DAN! conferences.
2010—ARI is instrumental in the publication of Siblings: The Autism Spectrum Through Our Eyes. This is one of the first books focusing on siblings of individuals on the spectrum.
ARI is instrumental in the publication of two papers published in that review the research on GI problems in autism and provide treatment recommendations.
ARI premieres a quarterly e-newsletter focused on topics related to adults on the autism spectrum. The editor is an adult on the spectrum, and the majority of articles are written by adults on the spectrum.
2011—ARI sponsors adult tracks at its national conferences, giving adults on the spectrum a platform to describe their needs and provide suggestions for helping other adults on the spectrum.
ARI establishes the Autistic Global Initiative (AGI), an ARI program run by adults on the spectrum.
ARI begins publishing a quarterly enewsletter focused on individuals on the autism spectrum who have hearing and/or visual impairments.
Dr. Margaret Creedon, one of the top clinical psychologists in the autism field, joins the staff of ARI.
ARI transitions from brick and mortar conferences to online webinars in order to offer support to families worldwide.
ARI premieres a bi-monthly e-newsletter for obstetricians, pediatricians, and nurses titled Clinical Research in Autism.
ARI receives NGO (non-government organization) status from the United Nations.
ARI establishes the Global Autism Alliance with representatives from countries in Chile, Dubai, France, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and Puerto Rico.
AGI publishes a two-volume, 750-page curriculum and training for direct support providers for adults on the autism spectrum.
2013— ARI publishes the book Nutritional Supplement Use for Autistic Spectrum Disorder, written by Dr. Jon Pangborn.
ARI begins co-sponsoring an annual think tank in Boston in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital.
ARI sponsors two discussion panels on Autism Awareness Day at the United Nations.
AGI premiers an online 12-week comprehensive daily living/residential course for providers for adults on the spectrum.
2014—ARI produces webcasts, in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic, on medical and biomedical issues for physicians.
ARI premieres an internet portal, autism.jobs, on employment for those on the spectrum, parents, and potential employers.
2015—ARI premieres an online job interview course for adults on the spectrum.
2016—ARI is instrumental in the publication of Understanding and Treating Self-Injurious Behavior in Autism. This is the first multi-disciplinary book focusing on challenging behavior.
Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Autism Research Institute
This editorial originally appeared in Autism Research Review International, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2017