Through the 1980s, psychologists had been blaming parents for their child’s autism: claiming that certain parents did not nurture or love their children enough, causing them to develop the lifelong disorder. Can you imagine?
But in 1984, Drs. Margaret Bauman and Thomas Kemper changed all of that. Through comparative anatomy, they identified changes to the cells in the brain’s limbic system and a reduced number of cells in the brain’s cerebellum of individuals with autism. This meant big changes in the autism community.
In doing so, Drs. Bauman and Kemper proved that the cause of autism has nothing to do with a parent’s ability to love their baby. Those cellular differences in a brain with autism were biological changes that developed before birth: facts that relieved parents of the guilt and shame previously associated with the disorder.
This discovery put autism “on the map” as a key disorder in need of further research; understanding the pathology of autism required their initial work to continue.
The Autism Research Foundation was founded in response to that need, and its Brain Atlas Project does just that: continues the work of Drs. Bauman and Kemper to map the structural similarities and differences between typical brains and brains with autism.