Monday, 25 January 2016

Historical Update – What Happened to Kanner’s Subject #1

When it comes to understanding history, it usually pays to dig deep for the facts and then make your own interpretation. This is particularly true when the subject is complex and since most authors naturally have their own bias.

Kanner's subject #1, 72 years later

So I would not read books like Neurotribes, by Silberman, or In a Different Key (Donvan/ Zucker), just reading comments by Silberman is enough to show his level of knowledge.  The now awarding winning Silberman says that since, after all these years, science has not found a cure for schizophrenia, it should not bother for autism.  That would mean that since no cure has been found for HIV, we should not try and find a cure for the Ebola virus either. Great progress has been made with both viruses.

Donvan/Zucker did achieve something useful; they tracked down Kanner’s Subject # 1.

This is interesting because you can read, first hand, Kanner’s case report from 1943 and then see how things turned out 73 years later.

The point missed by most is that the people Kanner diagnosed with his type of “autism” do not fit the description most people (including me) now use for Kanner’s Autism, or Classic Autism.  You just have to read his case reports.  He includes people who were much higher functioning.

As for Asperger, some people are now pointlessly debating how much of a Nazi he was.  Since he lived in Vienna in 1943, he was unlikely to have been an avid anti-Nazi.

What word do we use to describe all those nice doctors and parents who in 1943 sent three and four year old American children with autism, or Down syndrome, to live out a very short life in an institution, then called a “Home for the feeble minded”?

As they say, those in glass houses should not throw stones.

Fitter Families for Future Firesides

Case #1 - Donald Grey Triplett

First seen by Kanner in 1938, at the age of five, and the first subject in his paper of 1943, Donald Triplett is still alive and well, aged 82, and living in Mississippi.

At the age of one he could accurately hum and sing songs.  By the age of two he knew the names of a great number of houses in his home town.  He knew the Presidents of the United States by their pictures.  Aged four, he was institutionalized.
As you can read in the link below, things turned out rather well for Donald.  His saving grace was that even though his parents put him into an institution at the age of four, they had second thoughts and a year later took him back home.  77 years later he is still there, driving his Cadillac to the golf course and back every day.

Had he stayed in “care” things most likely would not have been so rosy.

This does not mean that everybody with Classic autism can/will grow up to be an avid golfer, just that one person did.  Good for him.


  1. Peter, I think golf saved him, seriously, golf is the perfect sport for autistic people. I know that from my own experience.

  2. Funny thing with respect to Silverman is that the modern treatments for schizophrenia are getting better each year and rapidly so as the tools have also gotten much better lately in being able to to understand what is happening at the cellular level as well as functionally with respect to brain networks.

    And while HIV and herpes have no "cure", there certainly are treatments now that for all intents and purposes are about as good as a cure for those afflicted. We have no cure for diabetes or cardiovascular disease, but we do have treatments.

    More importantly, this gets into the whole realm of defining what a "cure" is in the first place. If your DNA happens to be cancer prone and you get cancer, get treated, it goes into remission for a lengthy period of time so that you live to a relatively old age, could you say that you were "cured" of cancer? What about a "cure" for intellectual disability. What standards do you use to define "cure" with respect to human beings and intelligence anyways?

  3. Tyler, people like Silberman are best ignored. I just wanted to highlight his ignorance.

  4. I couldn't agree more about Silberman.Are you aware that there are now known to be forms of schizophrenia that are due to cerebral folate deficiency and folate receptor autoantibodies,that are now being treated with folinic acid and B12?

    1. Roger, there are remarkable overlaps between autism and schizophrenia. Many genes can cause both, it just depends at what age the changes are triggered.

  5. Hi Peter. It looks like Dr. Michael Chez will be announcing the results of the cord blood stem cell therapy study as well as updates on his other workings on Feb 19th. I emailed the contact there to see if it was going to be webcasted, but was informed that it was not. Here is the link:

    Let's just say I will be searching all over the web on Feb 19th for a recording or transcript. I'm also trying to get an appointment for my son to see him as well despite the fact that it is almost a 600 mile drive for us.

  6. I have read somewhere that Donald Triplett received treatment for juvenile arthritis in his teenage years, after which his behaviours and social communication 'changed a lot', ie he became much less 'autistic'.

    Not sure if this story is true, but if so it should receive wide publicity. The treatment, if I remember correctly, was gold salts, commonly used for juvenile arthritis at the time.

  7. This is from 2005 interview with Donald's brother:

    "... He just had a miraculous response to the medicine. The pain in his joints went away." Donald has one fused knuckle to show for the nearly fatal affliction.

    There was more good news.

    "When he was finally released, the nervous condition he was formerly afflicted with was gone," his brother said. "The proclivity to excitability and extreme nervousness had all but cleared up, and after that he went to school and had one more little flare-up (of arthritis) when in junior college. They treated it with cortisone.

    ... He became more social," noting that just a few years later Donald was asked to join the college social fraternity, whereas people with autism are prone to isolation and do not usually acquire friends.

    Would he call his brother autistic now, we asked? "It's just in certain areas," he said, citing a total lack of interest in dating or a life companion.

    Donald's transformation, his brother said, "is the most amazing thing I've ever seen."


    1. Thanks, this makes a lot of sense. His arthritis will increase the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6, this would certain affect his autism. So treating his arthritis would certainly help his autism.


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