Here is a text-only version of the 'Our story so far' timeline. You can view the full image version of the timeline here.




1943. Autism first described as a condition
Leo Kanner describes autism as a distinct condition in his paper 'Autistic disturbances of affective contact'.

1944. Asperger syndrome recognised
Austrian paediatrician Hans Asperger describes a condition later known as 'Asperger syndrome'.

1961. Women's Hour talk on autism
Helen Allison appears on the BBC's Women's Hour to talk about how autism affects her son, Joe.

1962. First meeting of founding parents
A group of parents come together to start what will later be called The National Autistic Society.

1962. Charity decides on aims
Following its first meeting, the group aspires to: start a school; open a residential service for adults; and provide an information and advice service.

1962. Newspaper article on autism
A feature on autism called 'Children in chains' appears in a London newspaper, The Evening News.

1962. First Parliamentary question on autism
The first Parliamentary question about autism was asked by Mr William Compton Carr to Education Minister Sir Edward Boyle.

1963. First NAS logo developed
The first NAS logo was designed by a parent member of the Executive Committee, Gerald Gasson, and used the symbol of a puzzle piece.

1964. First professional publicity campaign
The first publicity campaign organised by a team of professional experts for the society launched at the end of 1964.

1965. Sybil Elgar School opens
We open our first school called The Society School for Autistic Children, later renamed Sybil Elgar School. Since it opened in 1965, 383 students have attended Sybil Elgar School.

1967. First issue of Communication magazine
The first issue of our members' magazine, Communication, is published.

1968. Helen Allison School opens
Due to the popularity of our first school, Sybil Elgar suggests the NAS open a second school. Since it opened in 1968, 155 students have attended Helen Allison School.

1972. First autism conference
The first ever three-day conference took place in Pontins Wick Ferry Holiday in Christchurch, Dorset. The conference was called 'The autistic child in society'.

1974. Somerset Court opens
The residential community is opened to provide continued support and care for students leaving Sybil Elgar School.

1974. Radlett Lodge School opens
The school is in Radlett in rural Hertfordshire. Since it opened in 1974, 291 students have attended the school.

1976. Robert Ogden School opens
The school, originally called Storm House, is in Rotherham in South Yorkshire. Since it opened in 1976, 480 students have attended the school.

1977. Genetic link to autism established
The first systematic study of twins with autism is published by Dr Susan Folstein and Professor Michael Rutter.

1979. Triad of impairments
Lorna Wing and Judith Gould's groundbreaking study presented the idea of an autism spectrum.

1980. DSM 3 recognises autism spectrum
The third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) recognises autism spectrum disorder.

1982. Renamed The National Autistic Society
In 1982 the charity changed its name from The Society for Autistic Children to The National Autistic Society.

1985. Broomhayes School opens
The school, originally in Westward Ho! and now Bideford in Devon, is opened by our Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Since it opened in 1985, 120 students have attended the school.

1988. The film Rain Man is released in the US
The Academy Award winning drama starring Dustin Hoffman is said to have heavily influenced public perceptions of autism.

1989. Chris Gillberg's Asperger criteria published
Christopher Gillberg, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, publishes the first diagnostic criteria for Asperger syndrome.

1992. Autism Accreditation launched
Our Autism Accreditation programme provides an autism-specific quality assurance programme for hundreds of organisations throughout the UK and across the world.

1994. DSM 4 recognises Asperger syndrome
The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) recognises Asperger syndrome as a separate disorder from autism.

1994. NAS Cymru opens
The NAS Wales office opens in Cardiff.

1995. NAS EarlyBird starts
The EarlyBird programme is for parents whose child received a diagnosis of autism and is of pre-school age.

1995. NAS Scotland opens
The NAS Scotland office opens in Glasgow.

1995. Prospects opens
Prospects is our employment and training service for people with autism who wish to work.

1997. Autism Helpline opens
Today, it offers impartial, confidential information, advice and support to around 62,000 families every year.

1997. Jane Asher becomes NAS President
Jane was made President of the NAS in recognition of all her hard work for people with autism.

1998. Daldorch House School opens
The school is in Ayrshire, Scotland. Since it opened in 1998, 90 students have attended the school.

1998. Lancet publishes Wakefield research
The Lancet publishes research claiming to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease. The research is later discredited.

1999. Autism Research Centre founded
The Autism Research Centre (ARC) brings together scientists working on autism at the University of Cambridge.

2000. APPGA launched
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA) is a formal cross-party backbench group of MPs and Peers interested in autism. We are a member of its Advisory Group.

2002. Autism and education good practice published
The UK Department for Education publishes 'Autistic spectrum disorders: good practice guidance'.

2003. Countess of Wessex becomes NAS Royal Patron
Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex took over this role from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.

2003. Mark Haddon publishes acclaimed novel
'The curious incident of the dog in the night-time' by Mark Haddon tells the story of Christopher, a 15-year-old with Asperger syndrome.

2005. NAS Northern Ireland opens
The NAS Northern Ireland office opens in Belfast.

2005. First Autistic Pride Day
Autistic Pride Day is an Aspies for Freedom initiative to celebrate people on the autism spectrum.

2008. World Autism Awareness Day announced
The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declares 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day.

2008. Gary McKinnon diagnosed with autism
Between 2001 and 2002, Gary McKinnon hacked into US military computers to search for proof of UFOs. He is fighting extradition to the USA.

2009. Wales autism strategy published
The Welsh Assembly Government publishes its Autism spectrum disorder strategic action plan in April, making it the UK's first autism strategy.

2009. Autism Act passed
The Autism Act 2009 becomes the first ever disability-specific law in England, after campaigning by the NAS.

2009. Northern Ireland autism strategy published
The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety launch the Autism spectrum disorder strategic action plan in June.

2011. BBC Panorama exposé broadcast
In June, BBC programme Panorama broadcast shocking footage of residents in a care home for people with autism being grossly mistreated.

2011. Scottish autism strategy launches
NAS Scotland welcomes the Government's autism strategy, which aims at supporting the country's 50,000 people with autism.

2012. NAS celebrates 50th birthday
On 17 May, the NAS celebrates its 50th birthday! Help us celebrate - visit our 50th birthday webpage here.