Linwood’s History

Pioneers In Treating Autism

In 1955, long before autism was commonly known, and long before the advent of Applied Behavior Analysis, therapist Jeanne Simons opened Linwood’s doors to children who were destined to be institutionalized. She created a school and residential haven for these children, the first and only program of its kind to provide relief for the parents.

But even more than the school, Linwood’s unique place in the short history of autism is defined by its early connection to the first researchers in the field. Dr. Leo Kanner, who was the first to identify the syndrome now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder and coined the term Early Infantile Autism, conducted his early autism research at Linwood. And in 1965, American University professor and researcher Charles Ferster defined “The Linwood Method.” Using a federal grant, he studied behavior modification with autistic children and developed the “Linwood Project”, which analyzed Jeanne Simons’ therapy and broke the methods down into objective behavioral language.

Sixty years later, Simons’ Linwood Method remains the basis for the treatment we use today. Her book, “The Hidden Child: The Linwood Method for Reaching the Autistic Child”, co-written with Dr. Sabine Oishi, chronicles her work through the years and is still used as a guide for training staff at Linwood and other centers working with people with autism.

Fundamental rights, courtesy, respect, dignity, individuality, and self determination were all woven into her work, and these concepts have been handed down to generation after generation of Linwood staff members. They’re as much a part of our programs today as they were 60 years ago.