Intended for healthcare professionals


Lorna Wing

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 15 July 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4529
  1. Anne Gulland, London
  1. annecgulland{at}

Psychiatrist who coined the phrases Asperger’s syndrome and autistic spectrum

Lorna Wing first realised that her young daughter, Susie, was not like other children when they were on a train together. Sitting opposite her was a little boy of about the same age, who was pointing at things and engaging with his mother: something Susie, later diagnosed with autism, never did.

“A cold chill came over me, and I was very worried,” Wing said in an interview in the Guardian in 2011.

At the time of Susie’s birth in 1956 to Wing and her husband, John, both psychiatrists, autism was a little known and understood condition. The prevailing view was that it was a social attachment disorder whose roots were in the mother-child relationship. Cold or “refrigerator mothers” were thought to be the cause, and autistic children were taken away from their parents, causing much distress to both parties.

Wing’s worries about Susie were confirmed when she attended a lecture given by Mildred Creak, a pioneering child psychiatrist, who in the early 1960s chaired a working party on the diagnosis of autism.

Professor Jeremy Turk, child and adolescent psychiatrist at South London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust …

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