Here's L56:

"Hey Pete.

This is not so much about the entry at hand here, but I'm interested in the one you cited regarding autism. I must have missed it the first time around, but thanks for providing the link. Understand I'm getting in on this for the first time.

I can't say that I agree or disagree with the idea that autism is entwined so thoroughly with the parents' psyche. Mostly because I just don't know enough about it. But it's really a fascinating idea that I haven't really heard much about.

I'm curious about the research (if any) that's been done on this. Do you know of any studies that have been done to isolate parental involvement as a major contributing factor to autism? Perhaps twin studies to rule out genetics. I think I've heard of studies done with twins separated at birth which isolate environmental factors from genetic factors. (Although this is probably a statistical long shot for autism). What about controlled experiments with treatments involving the parents versus not involving the parents. To be quite honest, I didn't think that autism was a curable thing. If it's truly a psychological problem does that mean that there are hopes for a psychological solution? Also Fischkin makes an interesting point about having one child that's not autistic. If it's the same genetics (same parents obviously) and the same parental "issues" (for a lack of a better term), why the two different results? Or do the psychological factors involved with two separate births alter the psychological hair-triggers enough to get two different results?

I'm sure you've heard a lot of skepticism on this idea, but I'm not coming at it from that angle. I've just never heard of this, and I would be mighty impressed by the power of psychology if there was some real hard evidence for this idea."


Very thoughtful comments and questions, L56, and since I started out in the therapy business working with children, these are issues close to my heart that I have pondered and researched for decades myself. Ironically, understanding that childhood mental and emotional disabilities were inextricably tied to parenting actually was the prevailing view in psychology up until about 25 years ago or so.

Bruno Bettelheim, an Austrian child psychologist, and a refugee to the United States in 1939, gained an international reputation for his views on autism and for his success in treating emotionally disturbed children.

Bettelheim subscribed to and became a prominent proponent of the theory of autism that autistic behaviors stemmed from an emotional disconnect in the children's mothers. Bettelheim's 1967 book, The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self, was very well-known and respected at the time, in both the the popular press and in professional circles.

Unfortunately, and I was on the ground in the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's to witness it, the tide of government support for funding long-term residential psychotherapy turned with the election of Ronald Reagan, and simultaneously, parents joined forces with the medical profession and Big Pharma to discredit Bettleheim's theories - and successes - in favor of a genetic/biological etiology, in which nature was to blame for autism and, of course, drugs, not therapy, were the solution.

Tragically, to this day, not one proponent of the "nature fucked up" ideology has been able to claim success in treating autism. BUT - and isn't this always the most important thing - it got parents off the hook! Oh, yeah, and it made big bucks for doctors and drug companies. Amazing how much money there is in NOT curing illnesses, huh? Kind of like AIDS, cancer, diabetes...

Hey, thanks for getting my juices flowing this morning, L56!

1 comment:

Jay said...

While I don't take issue with the idea that parenting factors are always a part of children's issues I WOULD like to remind you that the whole Bettelheim era of autism theory was primarily about the MOTHERS only. It was inseparably tied in with good old fashioned sexism, holding that the defectiveness of women was responsible. This is a nice tub full of old bathwater that must be tossed, regardless of ones position on the cause of autism.

Our society perpetually teeters on the edge of holding mothers exclusively responsible for the ultimate outcome in their children's development. I generally respect, even agree with your positions but I do hope that you are not advocating a return to holding women solely responsible for the possible parental contribution to autism.

Say it ain't so, Peter.


blogger templates 3 columns | Make Money Online