I read a heartfelt piece this morning by the mother of an autistic son. Said mother, author Barbara Fischkin, was lamenting an inane, if not insane, diatribe by conservative talk show host, Michael Savage, in which the jackass said on his nationally syndicated radio show: "Autism is a fraud, a racket. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is."
What's sad about this is that both Ms. Fischkin and Mr. Savage, as two opposite sides of the same coin, facilitate our continuing to miss the point, which is that parents are always one of the sources for every disorder that our children have. Period. Ms. Fischkin wrings her hands, "wishing" it could be her fault (Not!), and Savage, like most so-called "conservatives," is so primitive that he thinks most problems in life can be solved by slapping somebody up.
But the truth is this, and it needs to be said and received with compassion: Parents are always part of the problem.
Parents are always part of the problem.
That's not meant as a judgment on parents. It's an assessment, one that I can make after thirty years of study and practice as a sociologist, psychotherapist and clinical social worker, and as a parent three times over.
Barbara Fischkin decries the late, great Bruno Bettelheim's statements about autism being caused by "coldness" in the mother, saying that such ideas have been "discredited," just like the concept of "schizophrenogenic mothers" (as a causal factor in schizophrenia in children) has supposedly been discredited, but discredited by whom? Medical practitioners who want every disorder to ultimately have a medical cause and therefore, a pharmaceutical cure? Parents who strive to be seen as blameless in their children's problems? This is as tragic as homosexuals in the early 1980's refusing to accept that a lifestyle that included excessive recreational drug use, along with massive doses of antibiotics, coupled with enormous societal pressure and stress was the primary cause of their immune system breakdowns. Hello?!
This is a great shame. Life is hard in many ways for many people right now, right here, on planet Earth. No one is perfect, and yet, parents are asked to raise children perfectly under the most impossible of circumstances, and at that, while there still is not even the slightest priority given to mental and emotional well-being in this society.
The fact is, in the field research will easily validate Bettelheim's theories. Any therapist who actually works with his patients and their families, and studies their histories thoroughly, will tell you the same thing, even though it has somehow become politically incorrect. Children are not born complete blank slates, true. There are genetic predispositions and seed plans in the soul, but parents are always part of the plan, and part of the trigger for those genetic switches turning on. It's not a crime to acknowledge that. It's a crime to deny it.
The woman I love and live with is a mother of two beautiful children that I am privileged to be raising with her. What makes her an amazing mother is not that she is perfect, but that she is fearless in seeing herself reflected in the strengths AND weaknesses in her kids. She has been willing to face the gut-wrenching truths that her children's "issues" have roots in her issues - even the ones doctors would let her off the hook for - and so she is able to help her children with their problems as she works through her own.
Eating disorders, addictions, attention problems, and yes, autism, in children, are issues that can be addressed through the self-work of the parents. Sorry. It's just true. Ask anybody who's actually operated from that premise - for real - and done the work without turning to the illusory magic bullets of medical treatment. Go ahead. Ask.
Life works. You can heal yourself, and in so doing, help your children heal themselves.