Autistic History Timeline

Autistic History Timeline

[Last updated on October 20, 2021]

1943 | 1965 | 1970 | 1987 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999

2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009

2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019

2020 | 2021


  • 1943

    Johns Hopkins University psychiatrist Leo Kanner first described autism


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  • 1987

    Study on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is published.

    It was suggested that with a comprehensive ABA program of 40 hours a week, about half of Autistic kids were indistinguishable from non-Autistic kids at age 7. — But even within the field, the research has been questioned.

    This behavioral therapy was pioneered by Dr. O. Ivaar Lovaas, professor emeritus at the University of California at Los Angeles



  • 1990

    Individuals with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990

    The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

    The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

    The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.

    It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.


  • 1991

    The Marcus Institute launched by Bernie and Billi Marcus in Atlanta, Georgia

    In 1991, Bernie Marcus and his wife Billi established The Marcus Institute in Atlanta, Georgia. Marcus later contributed $25 million to the launch of Autism Speaks. 

  • 1991

    Social Stories were developed in 1991 by Carol Gray as a tool for teaching social skills to children with autism.

    They address “Theory of Mind” deficits/


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  • 1994

    Simons Foundation founded by Jim & Marilyn Simons, ‘affected by autism’

  • 1994

    National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) founded by Eric LondonKaren Margulis London, parents of an Autistic. 

    NAAR Projects/InitiativesAutism Tissue Program, High Risk Baby Sibling Autism Research Project, NAAR Genome Project, NAARRATIVE

    The NAAR is the first non-profit organization in the country dedicated to funding and accelerating biomedical research for autism spectrum disorders.

    The organization was established by parents of children with autism concerned about the limited amount of funding for autism research.

    NAAR will merge with Autism Speaks in 2006

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  • 1996

    Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) and Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) Genetic Work Group 

    Cure Autism Now sponsored its first meeting, which resulted in the establishment of AGRE. This has become an invaluable resource to the autism field

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  • 2000

    The Children’s Health Act of 2000 

    Mandated establishment of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to coordinate autism research and other initiatives within the Department of Health and Human Service.

  • 2000

    National Alliance For Autism Research (NAAR) became the first non-governmental organization to break the $1 million mark for funding autism research and committed approximately $1.5 million to fund 19 pilot studies and two mentor-based fellowships in autism research taking place in the United States and Spain.

    Also in 2000, NAAR and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation began sponsoring the Autism Genetics Cooperative, an annual retreat for an international consortium of the world’s leading genetic researchers focusing on autism to share information and combine data to accelerate the search for autism susceptibility genes.

  • July 2000

    Autism: Gut Brain Workshop

    Cure Autism Now held the Gut Brain Workshop (Hancock, MA) with the goal of bringing together experts in autism, pharmacology, and gastroenterology to address how understanding the complex system of the GI tract could explain and account for autistic symptoms.

  • December 4, 2000

    Workshop on Mouse Models in Autism

    NIMH and Cure Autism Now sponsored a Workshop on Mouse Models in Autism (Bar Harbor, Maine) to bring together experts in the clinical features of autism, mouse genetics, and mouse phenotyping.

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  • 2002

    National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) budgeted an unprecedented $1 million to fund pre- and post-doctoral mentor-based fellowships to attract the best and brightest young minds to focus their talents on autism research.

    (NAAR) continued to drive the autism research movement and elevate the science more than any other autism organization, committing approximately $4 million to fund 22 pilot studies in autism research taking place in the U.S., England, Italy and Germany; three larger, collaborative programs in the U.S., Canada and England and 12 mentor-based fellowships in the U.S. and England.

    Also in 2002, NAAR played a key role in funding and presenting the first Canadian Autism Research Workshop, designed to enhance and increase autism research efforts in Canada.

  • 2002

    Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) project is unique among the large ASD epidemiological studies. It focuses solely on autistic disorder, and it emphasizes a search for environmental factors—including a broad array of chemicals in food, consumer products, and ambient air, as well as infectious and medical exposures—that might be linked to the disorder. The study is funded by the NIH.

  • March & October 2002

    Cure Autism Now held two meetings of a Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) Genetic Work Group (October 2002, Baltimore, MD, and March 2002, San Diego, CA), which was formed to analyze how to move AGRE forward further and faster.

  • April 2002

    Targeted Research in Autism Workshop

    Cure Autism Now held a Targeted Research in Autism Workshop (Santa Monica, CA) which attempted to pinpoint neurochemical targets and research directions in developmental neurobiology.

    The meeting report from this workshop is an extensive review published in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry which was one of the first to discuss autism in terms of a disorder of neural information processing and functional connectivity. Pinpointing Autism: Autism as a Disorder of Neural Information Processing: Directions for Research and Targets for Therapy (Unabridged)

  • 2002

    Autism Clinical Trials Task Force 

    The Autism Clinical Trials Task Force was a consensus meeting convened by Cure Autism Now in 2002 (Santa Monica, CA) in order to have clinicians derive a consistent strategy for clinical studies in autism.

    The meeting brought together a panel of participants from academia, government, and industry. Five subcommittees were formed to focus on issues of clinical trials in autism, and the resulting reports were published as an entire issue of CNS Spectrums.

  • 2002

    Brain Atlas Program

    Autism Speaks’ Autism Tissue Program (ATP) began the Brain Atlas Program in 2002 with the objective of deciphering the neuropathological features of autism in multiple brain areas in order to provide us with important missing information about how autism impacts brain structure.

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  • 2004

    Journalist Brian Deer exposes Andrew Wakefield as a fraud and Wakefield’s study with vaccines and autism as an elaborate fraud.

  • April 2004

    The Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE)

    AGRE Program FAQs

  • 2004

    National Alliance For Autism Research (NAAR) committed $6.2 million to fund 25 pilot studies, 14 pre- and post-doctoral fellowships as well as two large collaborative programs: the NAAR Autism Genome Project and expansion of the Autism Tissue Program.

    NAAR’s 2004 research commitments include the ongoing support of two interdisciplinary autism training programs that are being co-sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

    NAAR’s 2004 research awards are the largest single-year commitment to biomedical autism research ever made by a non-governmental organization and are funding pilot studies and fellowships in the U.S., Canada and England.

  • 2004

    NAAR Autism Genome Project 

    NAAR has committed $2 million towards the NAAR Autism Genome Project, an NIH partnership that is the largest research collaboration ever to focus on the genetics of the disorder.

    The NAAR Autism Genome Project will map the human genome in the search for autism susceptibility genes – the genes responsible for the inherited risk for autism. A public/private research partnership, this collaboration includes approximately 170 of the world’s leading genetic researchers from 50 academic and research institutions that have pooled their DNA samples in a collaborative effort.

  • 2004

    Cure Autism Now: Innovative Technology in Autism Think Tank 

    The Innovative Technology in Autism Think Tank in June 2004 (San Francisco, CA) brought together a workgroup to discuss the development of products that will provide real world solutions to issues faced by those with autism, their families, educators, healthcare specialists, and researchers.

    The incredible success of the meeting continues to guide our Innovative Technology in Autism (ITA) Initiative

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  • 2006

    Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is founded by Ari Ne’mean. This is Autistic-led organization. . 

    Board/Staff: Julia Bascom, Kayley Whalen, Meg Evans, Ben McGann, Hari Srinivasan, Zoe Gross, Sam Crane, Kelly Israel, Greg Robinson, Haley Outlaw, Ianthe Belisle Dempsey, Noor Pervez, Meredith Bartley, Reid Caplan, Jean Winegardner, Katherine Crater

  • February 13, 2006

    NAAR Merges with Autism Speaks

    Bringing on board NAAR founders Eric LondonKaren Margulis London

    NAAR Projects/InitiativesAutism Tissue Program, High Risk Baby Sibling Autism Research Project, NAAR Genome Project, NAARRATIVE

  • May 2006

    Autism Speaks press release announces Alison Tepper Singer will write an article of understanding’ about their idea of the word ‘cure’ and how that’s different than what Autistics think. 

    Autism Speaks battles Autistic activists fiercely. Autism Speaks was actively silencing Autistics or diminishing our voice. Today the Autism Wars are still being fought. Autistic activists have been in a civil rights movement already for over three decades now.

  • June 2006

    Autism Speaks funded 63 new biomedical research projects at a total value of over $6.9 million in June 2006.

  • December 2006

    Autism Speaks funded 61 new biomedical research projects at a total value of approximately $10 million in December 2006. 

  • December 19, 2006

    President George W. Bush Signs Combating Autism Act

    H.R. 5466, H.R. 6143, S. 843, and S. 3678 

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  • February 28, 2011

    Autistic Women & Non-Binary Network (AWN) founded by Sharon daVanpo

    Board/Staff/Contributors: Lydia X. Z. Brown, Emily Paige Ballou, Corina Becker, Jessica Horvath Williams, Lei Wiley-Mydske, Kayley Whalen, Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, Lori Berkowitz, Erin Casey, Jean Winegardner, Court (Alison) Falk, Mara Fritts, Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán, Kayla Rodriguez, Elesia Ashkenazy, Amy Sequenzia, Reese Piper, Hannah Morrison, C.L. Bridge, Nadine Silber, Kit Mead

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  • February 2015

    Autism Speaks Changes Stance on Vaccines and Autism Link.

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