Bernard Rimland : biography
Bernard Rimland, PhD (15 November 1928 – 21 November 2006) was an American research psychologist, writer, lecturer, and advocate for autistic children, ADHD, learning disabilities, and mental retardation.
Based in San Diego, California since 1940, Rimland was the founder, in 1967, and director of the Autism Research Institute (ARI), and founder of the Autism Society of America (ASA), in 1965. Rimland was long an internationally recognized authority on autism spectrum disorders, and was the father of a high-functioning autistic son.
Education and early career
After completing his undergraduate studies at San Diego State University, Rimland obtained his PhD in experimental psychology and research design, from Pennsylvania State University in 1953.
Rimland's son, Mark, was born in 1956, when the diagnosis of autism was rare. From birth, however, something was drastically wrong with Mark. Rimland had recently earned his doctorate, but was not yet familiar with the word autism. Only much later was it determined Mark's condition fell into the category of early infantile autism, rather than regressive autism. Despite challenges, Mark has nevertheless become a talented artist.
After his son's diagnosis, Rimland set forth on a quest to understand autism and bring much needed attention to the disorder, in order to foster research into its causes and treatment. Rimland has often sparked controversy along his way.
Rimland published his book, Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior, in 1964. Its foreword, by Leo Kanner, the man who first identified autism as a syndrome, gave the book credibility among professionals in the field. It was an about-turn for Kanner, the originator of the word "autism" and of the "refrigerator mother" theory; through his observations and research, Kanner had come to believe that autism had a neurological cause—the accepted view in the medical profession today. But at the time Rimland's book was published,and for many years afterwards, the standard theory was that autism was caused by unloving 'refrigerator mothers', an unproven but widely accepted idea most famously propounded by University of Chicago professor Bruno Bettelheim, notably in his book The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self (1967), which claimed that the traumatized unloved child retreated into autism. As a professional research psychologist, Rimland was well positioned to launch the first major attack on Bettelheim's theory. Rimland's was the first authoritative voice to dispute Bettelheim's research and call into question his conclusions.
Parents from all over the United States, excited that for the first time a professional in the field did not accuse them of maltreating their autistic child, began to write to Rimland. He called a meeting in Teaneck, New Jersey, at the house of one of the families, and this small group of parents, including among others Ruth C. Sullivan (first president of the ASA), became the nucleus that founded the Autism Society of America.
A brush with Hollywood
Rimland has lectured on autism and related problems throughout the world, including before thousands of professional groups, and he is the author of numerous publications. His high profile, within what was then a small community of autism activists, caught the eye of movie producers in nearby Hollywood, California.
Rimland subsequently served as the primary technical advisor on autism for the 1988 movie Rain Man. Mark Rimland was interviewed by Dustin Hoffman, serving as one of several models for the character portrayed by the movie star. The movie helped establish worldwide awareness of autism, just when the prevalence of autism was first becoming apparent.
Autism Research Institute
In 1967, Rimland established the Autism Research Institute (ARI) - the hub of a worldwide network of parents and professionals concerned with autism. ARI was founded to conduct and foster scientific research designed to improve the methods of diagnosing, treating, and preventing autism. ARI also disseminates research findings to parents and others worldwide seeking help via their * website. The ARI data bank, the world's largest, contains over 40,000 detailed case histories of autistic children from over 60 countries.
In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine