Center Academy 50th Anniversary

Center Academy at 50: What did LD, ADHD and ASD look like in 1968?

As Center Academy celebrates its 50th year of helping children and families, we thought it would be interesting to look at some of the things that have happened in the fields of learning disabilities, ADHD and autism spectrum disorders since 1968.

When Dr. Mack Hicks and his board of directors founded the Developmental Center, the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), then called the “Association for Children with Learning Disabilities”, was only four years old.  A working definition of learning disabilities within federal law had not yet been established, that milestone not being achieved until the next year with the passage of the Children with Specific Learning Disabilities Act of 1969.  LDA’s first national office was not established until 1973, located in donated space in a basement in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Finding schools and clinicians to treat learning disabilities was a challenge, and today’s well-known tutoring programs, such as Sylvan Learning (founded in 1979) did not yet exist.

What about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?  Well, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, ADHD did not exist in 1968!  At that time, the DSM-II described the condition as “Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood.”  It was not until 1980 that the DSM-III was released and used the description “Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) with or without Hyperactivity.”  The term “ADHD” did not officially appear until the DSM-III-R in 1987.  The national support and advocacy organization CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) also came into existence in 1987.

While “Infantile Autism” and “Asperger’s Disorder” were first described in the 1940s, the conditions were considered to be very rare at that time.  The autism diagnosis first appeared in the DSM-III in 1980, when incidence of the disorder was considered to be less than one in 1,400.  The definition of autism was expanded in the 1994 DSM-IV to include Asperger Syndrome.  As Autism Spectrum Disorder rates have increased, much more attention has been given to this condition.  The National Autism Association was founded in 2003, and Autism Speaks was founded in 2005.

While much has changed in the terminology, diagnosis and treatment of learning difficulties since 1968, Center Academy is proud to have been a resource for families throughout those 50 years and to continue as a resource for families today!






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