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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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6.5 1970s: early research milestones

Some of the first experimental studies of autism were conducted in the 1970s by the psychologists Beate Hermelin and Neil O’Connor, who developed a framework for studying many aspects of sensory, perceptual and memory processing (Hermelin and O’Connor, 1970).

Later in the 70s, Susan Folstein and Michael Rutter carried out their pioneering twin study (Folstein and Rutter, 1977). Folstein and Rutter found that when one member of an identical twin pair had autism, the second twin was more likely to have some form of autism than when the twins were non-identical. The researchers interpreted this as strong evidence that autism has a genetic basis.

A photograph of Michael Rutter.
Figure 4 Sir Michael Rutter b.1933