Conceptulizing Autism

Autism disorder was not known until different medical practitioners made various contributions from their interaction with autistic children. The history of autism is widely stated to have begun in the 1930s, and research continued as more practitioners took an interest in the condition. According to Zeldovich (2018), the main contributors to understanding the autistic spectrum disorder are Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner, who described the condition in 1938 and 1943, respectively. However, little is known about Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva, who was the earliest medical practitioner to define the autistic spectrum in 1925 (Zeldovich, 2018). Even though there has been a lot of research on autism, Sukhareva was one of the first doctors who helped figure out what autism was and added to what we know about it today.

History of Autism

The history of autism is largely attributed to Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner because of their immense contribution to understanding the characteristics associated with the condition. For instance, the study of the condition by Leo Kanner led to the coining of the name Kanner syndrome, which is used to describe children with a profound inability to form good relationships with others. On the other hand, based on his extensive study of psychological characteristics, Hans Asperger termed autism Asperger syndrome. Even though the two scholars were very important to understanding autism, many people did not know that Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva was one of the first people to study the subject.

Sukhareva was able to learn about autism because of her vast experience as a child psychiatrist. Zeldovich (2018) argues that Sukhareva was a child psychiatrist from the Soviet Union who managed to identify the symptoms associated with autism and provided a detailed account in 1925. However, her work is barely recognized beyond Russia despite playing an important role in promoting the understanding of the condition from an early age. Zeldovich (2018) adds that the suppression of her work as a child psychiatrist was influenced by the perception that was widely spread at the time of being anti-Marxist, which was indirectly viewed as being in support of the capitalists. Through extensive involvement with children with psychological and developmental problems, Sukhareva was able to establish different characteristics used to understand autism. Consequently, the conceptualization of the conditions made it easy to expound on the knowledge by other scholars.

Contribution of Sukhareva

Sukhareva was born in the former USSR, or modern-day Russia. Zeldovich (2018) notes that Sukhareva was born in 1891 to a caring family of Chaim Faitelevich and Rakhila Iosifovna. After her graduation in 1915, she started working at the same medical institute, Kyiv Medical Institute, in the Epidemiological unit. After serving the medical institution and the country in different capacities, including being a chief child psychiatrist, Sukhareva later decided to open a school to provide educational opportunities to children with psychiatric problems. Her efforts in the field of psychiatry were acknowledged in Russia, whereby she served in different capacities. However, this success came with extensive criticism from other parties and colleagues in the USSR. She served as director of the Institute of Psychiatry in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR).

It is because of her strong background in dealing with children with different psychological conditions that she was able to realize the varying symptoms exhibited by children with autism. She argued that autism was contributed to by diverse factors, including toxins and trauma a position she supported based on her study on children in Germany. Through her interaction and study of the psychology of children, Sukhareva was able to establish the different developmental problems among children. Her major discovery was schizoid personality disorder, which is today termed autism. Sukhareva discovered that children with SPD struggled to form social-emotional connections with others. Although her discovery required additional study to understand all the symptoms associated with autism, her publication laid a strong foundation for understanding the problem of autism.

Contribution to Modern Research

Unlike the description provided by Sukhareva in the past, the research on ASD has taken deeper research. However, Sukhareva made a considerable contribution to modern-day research on the disorder. Firstly, Sukhareva attempted to classify autism by using schizoid personality disorder among children. She argued that the disorder affects how children interact with others and how it impacts their ability to establish sound relationships with others. Although the categorization by Sukhareva was not adequate enough to present the problem of autism, it presented a good basis for understanding the condition. Harris (2022) predicts that autism is a complicated condition that involves diverse complications, such as social and emotional inabilities. So, Sukhareva was able to come up with a good way to think about the condition because of the papers she wrote about it in the 1920s.

There are different ways in which schizoid personality disorder is similar to autism. Askham (2022) points out that both autism and schizoid personality disorder show that both children have a social and emotional deficit, which hinders their ability to relate with other people. However, to understand the difference between schizoid personality disorder and autism, the analysis of autism should go beyond the social-emotional detachment of a child to other factors such as the functioning of the five senses, delayed developmental milestones, and challenges with both verbal and non-verbal communication (Askham, 2022). Children with autism experience challenges in their everyday lives, from communicating with others and establishing good social relations. In this regard, Sukhareva provided a starting point that helps researchers to understand more about ASD in society today.

ASD patients exhibit additional symptoms, which put them in a different position compared to patients with other disorders such as schizoid personality disorder. Askham (2022) states that children with ASD exhibit health challenges like having repetitive behaviors such as body movement and banging of the head, combined with the tendency to harm their bodies. Their inability to control their reflexes puts the children at risk of constantly making certain movements that are not common among children without ASD. Unlike children with SPD, ASD is characterized by challenges such as perseverative interests, which is evidenced by their excessive passion for maintaining close attachment to an object and love for routines. While in both SPD and ASD, children experience slow development, ASD comes along with the problem of visual stimming that is characterized by gazing at items and people.

Screen time and Autism

The relationship between screen time and autism is relatively new research that understands the connection between external environmental factors and the problem of ASD. Sainani (2022) states that the research was published by JAMA pediatrics, pointing out that the risk of being diagnosed with autism is 3.5 times higher among infant boys who spend much time glued to the television. According to Kristin Sainani, the research was conducted by using a sample of 84,000 women from different parts of Japan (Harris, 2022). The women were required to fill out survey questions by explaining the number of hours that their children spent watching television. This approach was aimed at understanding the connection between the time spent and the risk of being diagnosed with autism.

From the study, women that reported that their children had more screen time also recorded a high number of children with autism by their third birthday. The research also showed that boys were at a higher risk of being diagnosed with autism compared to girls. However, as was pointed out by Sukhavera, understanding autism spectrum disorder requires extensive and continuous research. Based on this understanding, the research on the impact of watching television on autism was marred by various biases, which calls for additional research. For instance, most women that participated in the research may have failed to consider the under-reporting of screen time, and some may not want to disclose the condition of their children (Harris, 2022). Examining screen time and the problem of autism is not a conclusive approach to research because it fails to incorporate all the scientific parameters that may connect the two variables. Additionally, the study is contrary to a previous study that argued that watching television has an inadequate impact on development factors such as language and visual motor skills.


The conceptualization of autism was contributed by different scholars who dedicated their time to the subject. Although much is not known about Sukhavera, she made a considerable contribution to conceptualizing autism spectrum disorder in 1926 because of her strong experience of dealing with children. As a child psychiatrist, she learned about ASD, which she termed a schizoid personality disorder. Although both ASD and SPD have similar social and emotional challenges, the publication by Sukhavera laid the foundation for more study on different symptoms associated with them, such as gazing and repetitive conditions. The publication by Sukhavera pioneered modern research on ASD, such as the study on the influence of screen time on the risk of autism among infant boys. Although the research on the relationship between screen time and autism was not conclusive because of the bias, it showed the disparity in the issue of ASD and the need for further research on the topic.


Published by LKeller.

I am a mom, nurse aide, full time student, and teacher's assistant. After learning that both my boys had autism, I became a huge advocate for all students and people with learning difficulties

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