Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Early Childhood Autism

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 26 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6840
  1. Kate Robertson, speciality doctor, Shropshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, Coral House, Shrewsbury SY1 3GZ, UK
  1. kate.robertson{at}

Although it was written when autism hadn’t attained the acceptance and recognition it has now, before the current diagnostic explosion that has seen prevalence rise 10-fold, it is surprising how contemporary this book feels 45 years after publication. A considered look at autism, the book is well written, impressive, and comprehensive—and almost all the recommendations the authors made hold true today.

The first chapter is a joy to read: Wing’s husband John K Wing’s concise and thoughtful historical overview starts and ends with American psychiatrist and physician Leo Kanner, whose 1943 case series of “markedly and uniquely” different children used the term “autistic” to describe their behaviour. The authors’ holistic attitude is casually but clearly established; a diagnosis is complementary to other functional approaches, not …

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