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Freudian Fright

Posted by Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson, PhD

You may have seen recent headlines generated by the controversial French film, The Wall, which highlights the persistence of inappropriate autism treatments in France. There, families with a child who has autism are often offered outdated psychoanalytical therapies based on the widely debunked Freudian idea that autism results from being raised by an emotionally cold mother (the so-called “refrigerator mom” theory of autism).

The persistence of such ineffective treatments and outdated attitudes reminds us of the need to continually educate the public and the world medical community of the effectiveness of modern therapies for autism—including behavioral interventions such as Applied Behavioral Analysis. For more information, please see the “How Is Autism Treated?” page of the Autism Speaks website and Autism Speaks’ 100 Day Kit, created specifically for newly diagnosed families to make the best possible use of the 100 days following their child’s diagnosis of autism.

  1. Ernest Weaver
    December 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    DOCTOR! We’re not only children! (insert picture of me, frustrated, HERE) Is there ANY HOPE AT ALL for us grown-ups who have suffered a lifetime of abuse, neglect, homelessness, incarceration, and intravenous drug addiction as the result of no diagnosis??????? Thank you for the 100-day kit for children’s diagnoses, which answers some needs, to be sure, but what about us kids that have 42 years of confusion? (That’s me in a nutshell, and i’m only one person! Anyone may call me with comments, and PLEASE DO! -Ernie Weaver, 208-223-5777, Idaho, USA.

    Someone please call BEFORE they shut off my phone. Being Autistic and forced to live amongst the worst bullies society has to offer is not something I can continue; it’s already caused irrepairable nerve damage and severe PTSD. I’m not the only one sinking in this boat, either.

  2. December 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks you Geri for relaying our cause to your American audience.

    We invite your friends to join our campaign to prevent the ban of ‘The Wall’. We must preserve free speech, say no to censorship, no to human rights violations and no to children abuses in Autism in France. We really need external help to help us improve their living conditions in France.

    Thanks again for your interest in our campaign.

    Join us at http://www.supportthewall.org and twitter: @SoutenonsLeMur

  3. RamonaFlowers
    December 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you for sounding the alarm. Things need to change in France.

  4. December 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Thank you very much for your support.
    I’m a psychiatric nurse, and i’m the father of child with autism.
    This film shows what realy we have to deal with.
    Olivier Bousquet

  5. Nancy
    December 9, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    One day, my mother in law looked across the table and said “You know, I think your son is Autistic because you went back to work so soon after you had him. A boy needs his mother and he apparently did not get the proper care.” I looked her in the face knowing I was home 8 weeks and that I held him and loved him every moment I was home after work and said “You know. You are right and since you were the one who took care of him when your son was working, that makes it your fault.” That ended the discussion.

  6. angel
    December 10, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Thank you for getting this out there and supporting us, parents and our autistic children in france i hope we can make things change so our kids can all get the appropriate help they need to be indépendant and as self-sufficient as possible in their adult life. So once again thank you

  7. December 10, 2011 at 5:20 am

    Thank you so much for your support.
    We really need you because the French system is totally locked by children psychiatrists who place their believes & pertenency to the psychoanalysis “schools” before their PhD & inherent responsibilities!
    Many doctors, speech therapists, educators, psychologists want to move forward but the majority is still under these guys power. They can’t talk if they want to keep their jobs.

    In France we have a very generous health system. It is totally locked by psychoanalysis. We have free services if we send our children to psychiatric hospitals, where “care givers” observe them, interpretate what they do without interacting. If we want therapists who work with ABA, TEACCH, PECS, we get no public money, at all. These have to pay for the appropriate training, whereas teaching of psychoanalysis is free in our public universities.
    Sometimes parents are sued by public services because they refuse “psycho dynamic” care for their child, “mother-child” therapy and prefer school, cognitive & behavioral therapy for their child, parental guidance…
    It is so comfortable for the society to hide our children & consider it is because of the parents (mother), so it is really hard to get our voice heard.
    You’re right Professor, public & health professionals education is key!
    Thank you again for your support, hope i made myself understandable in spite of my poor English.

  8. December 10, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I remember, years ago, being asked by a health care professional if I was a refrigerator mother. So silly! I replied, ‘No, I was a smother mother’.

    Although my son was diagnosed as ‘profoundly autistic’ when he was small and he did not speak until he was 9 or 10, he never received any “treatment” (whatever that is?!) and he is a fine, happy, affectionate adult who graduated from uni in computer science, so I find this article interesting.

    When he was a child I was told (again by health professionals) that he was a ‘write-off’. Some write-off!

  9. kaki.782@orange.fr
    December 10, 2011 at 10:49 am

    having a child with autism in France is a big nightmare. Psycchoanalys kill our children, since 50 years, They have no future

    please, support our families.
    Let them know what you think about it


  10. December 10, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you so much for your support.French autisme care is still stuck to middle aged lacanian pychoanalytic approaches. The whole system is blocked , from care givers training at universities, to all places wher we should be given help to raise and educate our autistic individuals.
    For the very first time we have a tangible proof of system insanity via The Wall, we won’t let it go !
    We start our Revolution, spread the word !

  11. December 11, 2011 at 2:59 am

    thank you !! It is so great to feel suported by foreign countries….
    we really need support because th efight is only beginning. Psychoanalysis is everywhere in our country. : they also control the media…
    you can see in this link a summary about this film


    Thank you !!!

  12. December 11, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Makes me so sad. I just read in Paul Collins’ great book, Not Even Wrong, that Bettelheim was not a doctor, had fabricated his educational history, later was accused of physically abusing his patients, and late in life committed suicide by drinking whiskey then tying a bag over his head. How come the whole world knows about the supposed damage caused by terrible, cold mothering (?!), and no one ever hears more about the guy who did the most to perpetuate that theory?

  13. Mary Salazar
    December 11, 2011 at 11:31 am

    The stuff nightmares are made of. this is quite the ship of fools.

  14. Marilyn Hoffman Fuss
    December 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    I have worked with autistic kids all along the autism spectrum. My own experience with a child with a psychiatric diagnosis is that of being a mother to a now 22 year old young woman who “went absolutely mad” about the time she reached puberty. Diagnosis: bi-polar disease. Cause: her parents; in particular me, her mother. We were lucky; although, we also experienced the very worst psychiatry had to offer. We moved heaven and earth and we altered our parenting and learned to unconditionally love our daughter even as she lashed out at us and me in particular. Today, our daughter is a college student, and for the past nearly three years she has worked as a line therapist with autistic kids. We are so immensely proud of her. She seems to have an unlimited capacity to work and love her clients. Don’t give up hope for your kids. And do not let anyone blame you for their condition. A very famous child psychiatrist who was also the mother of a skizophrenic daughter told me one day after I had battled an ineffective psychiatrist, “You can’t care what they think of you, you just have to bear it.”

  15. baania
    December 12, 2011 at 3:48 am

    We also live in France and have a child with bipolar. It took us seven years to find a doctor who understood her symptoms. All so called “professionnals” were accusing us for our child’s problems or were totaly refusing to see them. If anyone needs help with it, check up the CTAH clinic. I don’t wish anybody to go through what we had to live.

  16. Diane
    December 12, 2011 at 10:51 am

    So glad this is getting some press here! We’re the parents of a toddler who is benefiting from early diagnosis and excellent intervention, and were absolutely horrified to learn about the state of affairs for autistic kids in France. It really seems like it should be a UN-level human rights issue…

  17. December 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Please check out my independent film project on the Skinner school in France, “speak to me” – we are on Facebook and the blog is http://www.speaktomethemovie.com
    We are raising funds to tell this extraordinary story of a therapist, Cherice Cardwell, who abandoned her career in the US to make a difference in France for families impacted by autism. She named this ABA-based school after the American behaviour scientist, BF Skinner. It is an incredible story about battling these old fashioned attitudes and helping families desperate for meaningful educational opportunities for their children rather than babysitting in mental institutions. The school system in France is about 30 years behind the US when it comes to programming for autism spectrum. Please get in touch – as the filmmaker and mother of a child impacted by autism, I would love to hear your experiences.

  18. December 13, 2011 at 8:16 am

    It is so sad to think that as many as 80% of the population of individuals with autism in France (360,000-480,000) are exposed to this damaging treatment. I know that my parents felt so shocked when they found out about my diagnosis. To be falsely blamed for this diagnosis at this sensitive time must be awful for parents. It’s sad to think that being born in France significantly reduces your chance of a more positive outcome because of psychoanalysis.

    It is also admirable and important that Autism Speaks, Professor Geri Dawson, Laurent Mottron, Michelle Dawson and the documentary maker, Sophie Robert and others have chosen to raise awareness of this important issue.

    I think as an autism community it is important to unite on this issue to put significant pressure on the French government, psychoanalysts, and related organisations. It must be emphasised that it is completely unacceptable to continue with this approach in the face of conclusive evidence which shows it’s ineffectiveness.

    It is crucial that individual’s with autism get the appropriate treatment so that: 1) individuals with autism can meet their potential, 2) parents can help show the fantastic role they play in helping their son/daughter achieve their potential and 3) France can understand the valuable role that individuals with autism can play in society when they have their needs met.

  19. December 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Sigmund Freud probably would not approve what Lacanians do. I think he would say it’s not psychoanalysis. For several times he stated that psychoanalysis was an attempt of making a new natural science. Lacan and lacanians misrepresent Freud and what he intended with psychoanalysis.

  20. Veronique
    January 19, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I am the mother of a Asperger boy with THADA. I saw many so-called “professionals”, the first one when he was 4, because at school, it was horrible and I felt something was wrong. I was told that I was too anxious, too “fusional”, I had to let him get more mature… etc. Eventually, after having seen about 12 different persons -including a clinician psychologist who saw my son once a week during 14 months, without the beginning of a result (but it cost me a lot of money !!), I found a description of THADA on Internet. My son was 9, then. At last, I found a psychiatrist who told me “your son is THADA” and gave him methylphenidate (his psy told me I was crazy !!). The evolution was really impressive, he became a very very good pupil instead of a very very bad one, in less than 2 months (his teacher, who thought I was insane to give my son a “amphetamin” was really stunned).
    But it is only now (my son is 13) that we have the diagnostique with the Asperger Syndrom. During all these years, numerous people gave my numerous advices on what I should do, so that my boy acts as he should… It was never told directly to me, but it seemed quite obvious to these people (including so-called “friends”) that everything was my fault, am I not the mother ?! In France, a mother is guilty whatever happens !

    To make a long story short, do you think it is OK that the Asperger Syndrom is found only now, now that my boy is THIRTEEN !? (one more time, it’s me, and only me, who found a description of AS on Internet, about 2 years ago, and realized that my son was probably both THADA and Asperger ! then, I had to wait 14 months because the center specialized in autism, in my area, is overbooked. Nevertheless, during the past 14 months, my son has seen a wonderful psychologist, specialized in this syndrom and using ABA, TEACH, etc… but she is the only one in the area, so she sees my son only once a month, which in of course not enough (better than nothing, anyway).
    The film “The wall” tells exactly the way in which children with autism, whatever the degree of the autism, are treated in France.
    This story is not unique, it is the same story that thousands and thousands of families live here – and I am very lucky, because my son is “only” Asperger. Parents who have a non-verbal autistic child can live hell.

    You cannot imagine what happens here with the film. All parents feel that there is here, for the first time, a big opportunity to make thinks move for our children, thanks to Sophie Robert and her film. Psychoanalysists are now organizing their “riposte” (is it the good word in english ?) and the battle, in the medias, or in internet, is terrible !

    Your help, the support of international community, is very very important.

    Please excuse my bad english !

    Once again, thank you.

  1. December 16, 2011 at 9:30 am
  2. December 31, 2011 at 10:13 am
  3. January 7, 2012 at 3:19 am
  4. February 24, 2012 at 10:51 am

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