Bernard Rimland (November 15, 1928 – November 21, 2006) was an American research psychologist, writer, lecturer, and influential person in the field of developmental disorders. After the birth of his son, Mark, and his subsequent diagnosis of autism around the age of 2, Rimland began researching the disorder.
Bernard Rimland stated, “For years we have heard the experts say that autism is a lifelong disability, this simply is not true anymore.” Back in the 1960’s Mr. Rimland took the world of autism to a new and exciting level. Without the marvels of today’s technology, he dispelled the notion of the “Refrigerator Mom” which was the prevailing theory in the 1950s that autism was the reaction of children to mothers who were “cold and distant,” Rimland prove the theory wrong with clear determination and a lot of arduous work.
Having a son with autism and observing how his wife interacted with their son, Rimland knew the theory was false. As he began his quest, he discovered that there was little to no scientific data available. Researching and reading every article he could find and writing letters to people who were working on autism was how he began to uncover what was known at the time about autism.
Through his investigations, he noted that most mothers had warm, vibrant personalities and deeply cared about their children. Through all the research he discovered that autism may be biological and had nothing to do with the mothers inflicting trauma on their babies. This change, in theory, sent the world of autism into a whole new area to research.
Rimland’s first book, “Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior”, freed many mothers from the chains of the refrigerator theory.
The search for answers to solve the autism puzzle did not end for Rimland. In the back of his book, he included a 76-point diagnostic checklist. An overwhelming number of responses flooded his mailbox. People actually removed this section from library books in order to respond to Rimland. With each checklist, people included stories about their child and family. Rimland’s gathered and recorded all this information for later analysis.
Bernard Rimland’s greatest impact was to advance how we understand autism today. The world no longers believes that mothers cause autism instead, we know it’s a neurological disorder.
Here is a quick list of his accomplishments:
- In 1965 he founded the Autism Society of America
- In 1967 he founded the Autism Research Institute
- In 1988 he was assigned as a technical advisor for the blockbuster film”Rainman”