Library of the History of Autism Research

Whirling as a clinical test in childhood schizophrenia

Journal of Pediatrics 1958 Mar;52(3):295-303

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The "whirling" response or test has been described as highly specific for childhood schizophrenia. The test is performed as follows: The child stands with his arms extended, parallel to each other, and with his eyes closed. In order that he may be distracted, he is asked to count. The head is now passively rotated to one side as far as possible without discomfort. Reaction is noted and the head is rotated to the other side. The positive resonse, or whirling, consists of the child's turning his entire body as long as the examiner turns his head. The negative response consists of a slight rotation of the trunk but the entire body does not turn. Although the validity and relability of the whirling test have never been demonstrated, the test is presented in the literature not only as a diagnostic aid but as a characteristic sign of schizophrenia. Furthermore, the test has been offered as important evidence for the "maturational lag" concept of childhood schizophrenia.
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