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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Refrigerator Mother" Theory in Ireland and France

The discredited "refrigerator mother" theory still lives in some parts of the world. Victoria White writes at The Irish Examiner:
IT’S nearly two weeks since psychologist Tony Humphreys sparked outraged by saying children on the autism spectrum were shutting down because of an "absence of expressed love" from their parents.
My first reaction was inarticulate rage. Yes, I have a child in the autism spectrum. Yes, I love him to bits. Yes, I show it.

However, as the rage dies, I realise that Humphreys’ blunder is a symptom of a much wider malaise: Traditional psychology is defending its territory.

For over a century, at least since Freud, the whole of Western society has become accustomed to seeing mental dysfunction as part of a story. Much like a detective novel, the story has at its core a terrible secret. You extract the secret and you have cured the patient.
I was told: "Here we believe that every issue comes from inside the family." [emphasis added]
Remember that you were paying for all this: Two years of probing in the wrong place when an autism diagnosis should take a maximum of six months. 
Earlier this month, The Irish Examiner reported:
CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST Dr Tony Humphreys has reiterated controversial comments he made in an article published in the Irish Examiner last week linking parenting with the development of autism.
In the article, Humphreys suggested that a link lay between autism and parents not expressing love and affection to their young children. The article has been criticised by the Psychological Society of Ireland and Irish Autism Action, and it has since been removed from the Examiner site.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Claire Byrne on the Marian Finucane Show today, Humphreys said that children communicate all the time. If we respond to how children communicate and pick up what they’re trying to express, then they feel secure and continue to communicate, he said.
However, if we don’t, then children “wisely” shut down and stop communicating.
A few days after that, the Examiner reported:
 Health Minister James Reilly has described recent comments made by clinical psychologist Dr Tony Humphreys about autism as "utterly outrageous".

Dr Humphreys has been severely criticised for his article in the Irish Examiner which gave the impression parents were to blame for their child’s condition.

Speaking to TV3 yesterday, Dr Reilly, who has a 25-year-old autistic son, said the hurt caused by Dr Humphreys was "astonishing".

"Well, it was utterly outrageous. The hurt that he has caused people is absolutely astonishing. I heard him on the radio the other day and I thought he compounded it by saying ‘I thought this was a good news story that parents wouldn’t have to worry or feel guilty about passing on their bad genes to their children’.

"What? Another utter insult to parents and, you know, I’ll say this to parents, let no one set a limit on your child’s horizon. Experts will come and experts will go, but you know your child and you know what your child needs and you know the help they need and keep fighting. We’ll support them," Dr Reilly said
Meanwhile, Paul O'Donoghue writes in The Irish Times on the situation in France:
ON JANUARY 26th last, a court in the French town of Lille ordered that a documentary film be censored and removed from the internet.
The film, entitled The Wall, by Sophie Robert, critically examined the current dominant understanding and treatment of autism in France, which is founded on outdated and redundant theories of psychoanalysis.
Robert interviewed 27 psychoanalysts, three of whom later sued her, claiming they were misrepresented in the film. I have watched the documentary and so far as I can judge, the views of all of those interviewed are consistent with the psychoanalytic model that sees autism as being caused by a distorted relationship between the affected child and the mother. There is no objective evidence to support this viewpoint.
Ideologies can give rise to dire consequences and this is evident in the experiences of many French children with autism. In contrast to most other Western countries, it is claimed that up to 80 per cent of them do not attend school. In 2004 the Council of Europe condemned France for failing to provide appropriate education for children with autism.