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Mississippi native and first person diagnosed with autism dies at 89

Donald Triplett (Archive photo)

Donald Triplett, a Mississippi native known as the first person diagnosed with autism, has passed away at the age of 89.

Triplett, who lived most of his life in his hometown of Forest, passed away Thursday, according to a Facebook post from State Representative Tom Miles.

Triplett was born in Forest on September 8, 1933. At the age of four years old, his parents committed him to a state institution after noticing developmental delays but withdrew him a year later. In 1938, Triplett was examined by child psychiatrist Dr. Leo Kanner at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, prompting Kanner’s quest to diagnose Triplett’s symptoms.

By 1943, Kanner had seen 10 children with similar symptoms to Triplett. In his article “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact,” Kanner referred to Triplett as “Case 1” when outlining the disorder that later became known as autism.

Triplett learned to live successfully with autism, eventually graduating from high school and going on to receive a bachelor’s degree in French from Millsaps College in Jackson.

Post-college, he moved back to Forest and worked at his family’s bank, the Bank of Forest. He also learned to drive and was able to travel across both the country and the world. Throughout his life, Triplett was the subject of multiple news articles, books, and documentaries.

No funeral arrangements have been announced yet.

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