Suddenly, I’ve become an expert on autism – and not just autism, but all things neurological and other stuff I can’t understand.
This all stems from a commentary Mark Blaxill and I wrote last year for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, which the abstract on PubMed (yes, we’re indexed on PubMed!) summarizes thusly:
“Leo Kanner begins his landmark 1943 case series on autistic children by stating the condition was first brought to his attention in 1938. Recent letters to JADD have described this reference as "mysterious" and speculated it refers to papers published that year by Despert or Asperger. In fact, as Kanner goes on to state, 1938 is when he examined the first child in his case series. An exchange of letters with Despert and later writing by Kanner also point to the originality of his observations.”
Basically, we were disputing previous comments that suggested Kanner was actually referring to a speech Hans Asperger made in 1938, or an article by another child psychiatrist, Louise Despert, that same year.
The truth seemed clear to us. In his second paragraph of Kanner’s article, he explained why he was aware of such children “since 1938”:
“Case 1. Donald T. was first seen in October, 1938.” And there you have it. Kanner cited that encounter several more times and said, stating the obvious, that it was the first time he was aware of autism.
This may seem like dancing on the head of a pin, but trust me, it is really not, because relentless efforts to show that autism existed before Kanner, that he simply copied earlier reports of similar children, and so on, go to the heart of a key question: Is autism really ancient, and is it really increasing? We believe that no, it is not ancient; it was first observed in 1938 by Leo Kanner just as he said in paragraph. And yes, it really is increasing.
We’ll have much more to say on this later this year, but for now it’s enough to add that our paper went through peer review. Peer Review! That was a first for me. The first review comments came back with “Major Revisions Requested” in the subject line, but after several decades of being edited by grouchy city editors, I thought it was pretty tame. I was encouraged to take out a few snarky remarks more appropriate to a blog than a journal, which I was happy to do.
And I have to say, it was kind of cool to finally be peer-reviewed and PubMed indexed after a decade of wandering in the wildnerness of simply being a journalist with a point of view that had no standing in the medical community. All this in a journal that Kanner himself had helped to start.
Then the e-mails started coming. Here’s a recent one:
Dear Dr. Olmsted,
We would like to follow-up towards our previous mail which you might have missed. We tried to contact you after viewing your published work on "Leo Kanner's Mention of 1938 in His Report on Autism Refers to His First Patient." in [Journal]. Considering the scope of your noteworthy article, we assume that you might be interested in joining us for the 2nd Neurological Disorders Summit (NDS-2016) scheduled during September 07-09, 2016 in Baltimore, USA.”
Oops, they left the journal name out, which made this seem a little less personal than I thought. But really, me at a summit on neurological disorders? What a concept.
Dear Dr. Dan Olmsted,
Greetings to the day! I hope you are healthy and happy.
Austin Publishing Group aims to develop into an enlightening interactive network for researchers all over the world through its scientific publications and meetings.
We are gleeful to inform you about volume-2 started in Austin Journal of Autism & Related Disabilities.
The purpose of this letter is to formally invite you, to submit a Manuscript for upcoming edition of this journal.
You are requested to send any type of articles such as (Research; Review; Case Report; Mini Review; Short communication; Opinion; Letter to Editors, Editorials, Commentary, etc.) to increase the visibility of our Journal Austin Journal of Autism & Related Disabilities.
It would be great if you could submit an article so that I could process it for the Issue.
We await your positive reply with interest.
Wow. Just send an article to be “processed.” I was feeling pretty good. Just one more:
Dear Dr. Dan Olmsted ,
Greetings for the day!
We had a glance at your published article “Leo Kanner's Mention of 1938 in His Report on Autism Refers to His First Patient.”
We found your article very innovative, insightful & interesting; we really value your outstanding contribution towards Scientific Community. The time and attention you devoted in presenting a realistic and pragmatic article was really appreciated.
Being impressed by your quality work, we are contacting you to know if you can associate with us by submitting your upcoming research.
We accept any article (Research Paper, Review Articles, Short Communications, Case Reports, Mini- Review, Opinions, and Letter to Editors etc.) for publication.
SOJ Psychology (SOJP) requests you, to provide your manuscript on or before March 31th, 2016.
Please submit your manuscript here
Note: If need arises, we will extend the date of submission as per your convenience.
Thank you for your valuable time! Kindly revert to us for your queries.
Greetings to the day. Greetings for the day. Gleeful. Broken Englilsh. Hmmm.
After the first one of these, I sent Mark a note, “I’m a big star.” Mark wrote back. “Ha, yes, I got the same thing.” Mark, who has a lot more experience with this than I do, told me that a barrage of complimentary canned e-mails are spit out by robots anytime a peer-reviewed article appears. My star was falling.
I’m still glad a journal as prestigious as JADD ran our piece, and we really do think it was important. But I have to say, how many journals and summits and books are out there, and exactly how hard are they to get into?
Now that I’m “credentialed,” I guess I’ll find out.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.