The story of autism
You don't have to look too far back to see how deplorably misunderstood autism has been. In the 1940's it was believed that children's autism was caused by "refrigerator mothers". A 1948 Time magazine article described these children as "diaper-aged schizoids" and blamed parents - especially mothers -- for being undemonstrative and distant.
This seems laughable - and cruel - now, but so little was known about autism that misperceptions flourished.
Children often paid the price. They were described as "pathetic patients", idiots, or worse -- and they were exiled to institutions for the mentally retarded or the insane.