On the Autism Spectrum
Despite the growing recognition of autism as an acceptable diagnosis during the 1950s and 1960s, Hans Asperger's research went largely unnoticed.
Still, there were individuals who experienced autistic-like symptoms but did not have the cognitive differences usually found in those with autism. At the time, such individuals were diagnosed with mental illness or nervous anxiety. Some were institutionalized or imprisoned because of their odd behavior or because they were gullible and easily manipulated into making poor or dangerous choices.
Refrigerator Mother Theory
A popular theory to explain the alleged distance felt between parents, mothers in particular, and their children with autism was similarly applied to those with autistic-like symptoms. It was called “refrigerator mother theory,” which referred to the supposed aloofness or indifference shown by mothers unable to connect with their children. This theory reinforced the ridiculous notion that mothers deliberately induced Asperger's in their children. In fact, Asperger's Syndrome is no one's fault.
Some recent theories being researched to explain the prevalence of autism and Asperger's Syndrome include genetics, environmental factors (pregnant mothers' exposure to or ingestion of chemical elements), or children's immune system reactions to certain childhood vaccinations. There is currently no prenatal or other biological exam to test for Asperger's Syndrome.
It wasn't until 1981 that British psychiatrist Lorna Wing revived Hans Asperger's findings in a research paper of her own. This eventually led to the reclassification of autistic experiences in the clinical document titled Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or, as it is more commonly referred to, DSM).