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Bernard Rimland, PhD, (b. Cleveland, Ohio, 1928) is a research psychologist, writer, lecturer, and advocate for children with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, and mental retardation. Based in San Diego, California since 1940, Dr. Rimland is the founder, in 1967, and director of the Autism Research Institute (ARI), and founder of the Autism Society of America (ASA), in 1965. Rimland has long been an internationally recognized authority on autistic spectrum disorders,[How to reference and link to summary or text] and is the father of a high-functioning autistic son.

Dr. Bernard Rimland (bearded) in front of the Autism Research Institute

Education and early career[edit | edit source]

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.

Dr. 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.

Encountering resistance from the medical establishment[edit | edit source]

The medical establishment has long questioned Rimland's contributions to autism research. In 1995, Bennett Leventhal, a professor at the University of Chicago, tersely dismissed as "Rubbish" Rimland's concern about the rise in autism diagnoses, and his assertion that vaccinations might be among the causes.

Rimland is among a minority of researchers who believe that thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative) used in vaccines is a direct cause of autism. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assert that there is no demonstrable link between thimerosal and autism, based on epidemiological studies by Thomas Verstraeten and other scientists. Vaccine critics generally dismiss such studies, contending they are often tainted by significant conflict of interest problems, such as the fact that a now-retired FDA commissioner had financial stakes in pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines and thimerosal. [1]

In her book, Children with Starving Brains, Jaquelyn McCandless, MD, calls Rimland "The grand godfather" of the biomedical treatment of autism. Rimland's book, Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implication for a Neural Theory of Behavior (1964), is credited by many with changing the prevailing view of autism, in the field of psychiatry, from an emotional illness --widely thought to be caused by refrigerator mothers-- to the current recognition that autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Drawing attention to a possible autism epidemic[edit | edit source]

Rimland was among the first medical professionals to draw attention to what has since become a staggering increase in the number of diagnoses of autism. Rimland's early observations about the rise in diagnoses during the mid-1990s, regarding what is now known as an 'autism epidemic', have proven prophetic. The number of controversies surrounding vaccination campaigns, many of which Rimland has found himself in the midst of, have also escalated in tandem with the scope of the possible epidemic.

A brush with Hollywood[edit | edit source]

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 a model for the character portrayed by the movie star. The movie helped establish worldwide awareness of autism, just when the epidemic was first becoming apparent.

Ongoing endeavors[edit | edit source]

In 1967, Rimland founded the Autism Research Institute as a global network of parents and professionals concerned with autism. ARI conducts and fosters scientific research intended to enhance treatments for, and prevention of, autism. The ARI data bank, the world's largest, contains over 35,000 detailed case histories of autistic children.

Rimland is the editor of the Autism Research Review International, published by ARI, which covers biomedical and educational advances in autism research.

Rimland and his wife, Gloria, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The couple was married by Rabbi Monroe Levens of Tifereth Israel Synagogue, which was then located in Kensington, California.

Quote[edit | edit source]

  • "Soon after my textbook on autism was published in 1964, I began to hear from other parents. Many parents told me that their children were normal until getting a triple vaccine – the DPT shot. In 1965 I began systematically collecting data on the symptoms and possible causes of autism: In 1967 — 33 years ago — I began querying the parents, specifically about the child’s response to the DPT shot. Many had reported marked deterioration. During the past few years the Autism Research Institute has been flooded with an upsurge in pleas for help from parents throughout the world – from wherever the World Health Organization vaccine guidelines are followed. The majority of these parents say their children were normal until getting the MMR – another triple vaccine." Dr. Bernard Rimland (testimony before US congressional committee on April 6, 2000)

Books[edit | edit source]

  • 1964 Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implication for a Neural Theory of Behavior - written after his son, Mark, was diagnosed with autism.
  • 1976 Modern Therapies (with Virginia Binder, A. Binder)
  • 1998 Biological Treatments for Autism and PDD (with William Shaw, Lisa Lewis, Bruce Semon)
  • 2001 Tired - so Tired!: And the "Yeast Connection" (with William Crook, Cynthia Crook)
  • 2003 Vaccines, Autism and Childhood Disorders: Crucial Data That Could Save Your Child's Life (with Neil Z. Miller)

External links[edit | edit source]

  • - Center for the Study of Autism
  • - 'The Autism Explosion', Bernard Rimland, Ph.D.
  • - 'P.O.V. - Refrigerator Mothers'
  • - 'Dr. Bernard Rimland is autism's worst enemy: Devastated by his child's diagnosis decades ago, Rimland is dedicated to destroying the developmental disorder', by Patricia Morris Buckley (2003)

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