Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why the Tony Humphreys article upset me so much

Often the most dangerous theories are those which contain a grain of truth, and that is why this article is so upsetting to me.  You see I can relate to some of it, I can tick the boxes in each paragraph, and as my son was only diagnosed with asperger's syndrome in 2009, my feelings are still quite raw. 

And please note that this is a PERSONAL account.  Other parents of children on the autistic spectrum may have completely different views - I do not intend to offend anyone.

Tony Humphreys mentions research that suggests that the children of high achieving parents, especially engineers, scientists and computer programmers are more likely to have children with autism.  And guess what, family members on both sides have worked in these professions.  Such people are more likely to 'live in their heads' he says, and as a result there is an 'absence of expressed love and affection' in their lives.  Well anyone who knows me will know how much I adore my kids and how much I've done for them. 

And yet. 

My son's birth was difficult and I didn't bond with him as quickly as I did with my girls.  I was also accused of being 'cold' during the breakdown of my marriage.  Difficult and different behaviours were clearly shown by my son at school, but everyone assumed their escalation resulted from that breakdown. 

I imagine that Tony Humphreys would argue that they did.  

He might find it very easy to blame the parents for causing asperger's in my son, based on his theories.  And perhaps other people who read the article, even people we know, will do the same.  Perhaps my son will blame me when he is older....

And that's why the article hurts.  My son was less than 6 months old when I began to worry about his development.  I kept thinking that I had the solution: a tonsillectomy, counselling, resource hours.  And I gave him lots and lots of love.  But none of it was enough.  And to hear another expert on the radio today saying that many high-functioning children would do just as well with no intervention at all should have seen my son in his old school.  Suspension was the next step.  How would that have helped him?  And he was soooo angry.  And neither of us knew why.  Having an explanation and a diagnosis helps both of us.  With a diagnosis we have access to advice, information, services, support and a fabulous school where he is starting to fulfil his potential.

And I have to keep reminding myself that just because the some of the facts of my son's life may fit with Tony Humphreys' theories, it does not prove cause and effect.  

I do suspect a genetic component in asperger's syndrome and I see many aspie traits in myself.  But I don't think that I'm a refrigerator mum, do you?


45 comments:

  1. I always look at research with a very keen eye. I used to do bench research and its amazing who funds these projects....

    I firmly believe the genetic component to all of this and, like you, see a lot of tendencies in me. A lot. I think my kids came out hard-wired the way they are, if that makes any sense. And I think you're a fabulous mom. You are what your kids need and that says a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I know what you mean about the wiring - and I'm sure that nurture plays a part but not in the way that Tony Humphries suggests!

      Delete
  2. You are an amazing mother...anyone who has read your posts can see that. I hope that you see it too. With theories like this..we can all pick things/experiences/circumstances and make them fit..Basically because his theory really doesn't say anything..it is all speculation and opinion. You just keep on being who you are-Which is a wonderful, thoughtful caring and very loving person.
    This Humphrey guy is getting tons of free publicity over this..and as it is said "No publicity is bad publicity"..His career is being made by the people who disagree with him. He is best ignored.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just read another piece that says exactly what your saying - that he confuses opinion with fact. Though I don't think we can ignore him as too many people have read the piece - he was highly respected - and too many people will have their half-formed opinion confirmed by it sadly.

      Delete
  3. I think you knew for a long time Candi - everybody else had to catch up with you and get on board.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No you are NOT a refrigerator Mom...no way. I can't bring myself to write about this at all as I will totally vent. I chose to post photos instead. I agree with the link between engineers and computer programmers etc, even though none of our families are in that area. Cold heartedness, disconnect and bad parenting does not cause Autism. Even Dr Timini, amongst the bullcrap he spouted, disagreed with Tony Humphries view as regards refrigeratot Moms. he said he was not saying that at all.

      Do NOT let that idiot get to you...

      xx Jazzy

      Delete
    2. Like so many other parents who read this article I just felt the need to explain WHY this article was so hurtful. Your post is brilliant jazzygal as it SHOWS just how ridiculous his theory is xx

      Delete
  4. Well the selective mating theory of SBC seems to have validity- his research has shown a link and I have anecdotal evidence. At my last place of work- a huge physics lab- loads of us had autistic children and a fair few were more than likely autistic themselves. My children's dad is also a scientist.

    What Humphreys said though is that we people with a background in science and engineering lack heart and are cold and unable to show love. THAT is twaddle pulled out of his ass. He has zero evidence, he hasn't even tried to find evidence. It is horrid that this foolish man would be able to hurt good, loving mothers like you, to make you doubt yourself. How bloody dare he!

    I don't agree that all publicity is good publicity in this case. He is being investigated thoroughly. I doubt he will ever work for the Irish Examiner again- he would be too thoroughly scrutinised! His work lecturing to SNAs is most likely at risk too. The light on him has uncovered a litany of trash articles and attitudes and I doubt he will ever recover.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the publication of this article means that he will no longer lecture to people who will care for or help children with special needs, then there will be a positive outcome for us all in the end. I hope that this is the final result.

      Delete
  5. Oops, forgot to add I've added this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Liz and we all really appreciate your support.

      Delete
  6. Don't take the ramblings of that mad man to heart. My son is also Aspie, and it's most certainly genetic. My hubby and I took the online Broad Autism Phenotype test and we both blew the lid off the scores :)
    Your'e an awesome mum and Mr Humphrey's should go F#$% himself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I took one of the tests and was borderline aspergers...thanks so much for visiting and commenting.

      Delete
  7. You are an amazing mother - hold that thought in your head. All the parents of kids on the spectrum have to go above and beyond as you do you. You have to be amazing to cope. Your son's behaviour rings huge bells with me (I can still see the headmaster with his crooked finger calling me into the school). I'm starting to think there's a genetic link too, but Dr. Humphrey's theories are uttlery ridiculous,as Simon Baron Cohen said on Twitter. Whatever your background, if ASD was an emotional issue it would be solvable. It isn't. Anyone with a child on the spectrum knows it's way more complex than that. But your son (as mine) has skills that are enhanced, in the same way that his senses are enhanced, find them and you will unlock a treasure chest. I'm holding onto that thought. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the idea of unlocking a treasure chest, I can see it! Thank you xx

      Delete
  8. Blue Sky, I am not on top of what is happening in Ireland, however, I have been picking up stompies (South African expression!!) from reading your posts. Humphries' theories are so out dated ~ we all know that; and of course we all know that *refrigerator mother* is a load of old crock! Sadly, due to his comments, the general public may well be drawing their own conclusions and that is where the problem lies...
    Or, am I talking a load of old crock? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No Di, the reaction of the general public is one of the things many autie parents are worried about. Even now, not everyone has heard of autism - imagine if that article was their introduction to it?

      Delete
  9. Wow, interesting views on something that ultimately has no proven cause as of yet.

    People who are engineers, scientists, analysts and the like are all people who are very left brained. They like order, like to analysis everything, like the fact that everything is black and white and can be explained. My father in law was an engineer and so too hubby and they both show signs of what you could call ocd, they like routine and structure to their lives. So, from that point of view I can see where he has tried to make the connection with autism.

    But, then saying that it is because they are left brained that they then can't show their affection and love and that this causes autism is where he loses me. Ultimately he is blaming autism and aspergers on nurture and as such I think he is doing a great disservice and providing a misleading and damaging article.

    Kids of parents who have very left brained professions just grow up to be a bit what we would call 'geeky'; interested in very precise things and hobbies as opposed to me who grew up wanting to play with fairies (and my father also had a left brained career being a charted accountant all his life)Also neither of my parents showed much affection and love when we were small but I have grown up very much in my right sided brain and I am not autistic so his theory doesn't pan out in all cases does it??

    I don't think autism is a result of nurture but more a result of being locked into the left side of the brain with little chance of mixing with the more creative and less structure right side of the brain. What causes that and how to reverse it is still unknown but is much more likely to be a result of nature going awry and not how much of a mother's love a child gets.

    Just because you feel you didn't bond as quickly with aspie boy or because you were told you were cold in your marriage breakup - and sorry but isn't that just what happens when breakups occur?? then these are not clues that point the answer at you.

    You are an awesome mum. I have seen you in action with all your children and the patience, love and understanding you give all of them is something you should be proud of and not something you should ever question.

    Aspie boy's condition was not caused by your nurture of him. In fact the opposite is true. It is your love and the love and support of his school and the people around him that does and will improve how he interacts and copes with life.

    People will always come up with half baked theories about something but you know your truth and aspie boys truth and so you need to hold onto that.

    Love and hugs as always, Hxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for such interesting comments. With my remarks about bonding etc I was trying to illustrate how a case could be made that ties my son's aspergers into TH's theories. Thanks as always for your support xxx

      Delete
  10. I could cry over the pain this excuse for a man has caused so many of us. I can only hope that this has taught the media not to mess with autie parents XXX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The autie parents have been absolutely amazing though xxx

      Delete
  11. We definitely have a run of ASD in our family, across generations, which is the main reason why I think my children are on the spectrum. I can even see a lot of ASD traits in myself. As for the scientific link, my husband is an engineer and I am also one who loves detail. This doesn't mean we don't love any more or any less than non-scientific people. We may not be over affectionate and slobber each other with kisses and hugs but we do love and care for one another. As for this refrigerator mum theory, I personally have no time for something that was discredited a long time ago. To raise this theory is irresponsible and fails to take account of the scientific progress being made in this area ie genetics & neurobiology.

    And Blue Sky, as others have said, you are a fabulous person and mother. Your compassion and love for your family shines out.


    Deb x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In this family it's my NT 19 yr old who is no longer keen on hugs and kisses, so what does that mean. My son is less keen than he was, but how many 10 year old boys are slobbering all over their mums?

      Delete
  12. There are many people who very ignorantly think conditions on the autism spectrum are self-induced. Like ADHD for example; or the naughty syndrome. How insulting is that? I challenge these people to live for just one week with a child on the spectrum and then reveal their findings.

    CJ x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks CJ, that's the worry isn't it? This article will just confirm the opinions of those people x

      Delete
  13. ...wonder if the ghost of Bettelheim will ever rest.
    My son is so easily withdrawn and so much effort needed to engage him and sometimes madly I almost want it to be my fault just then perhaps there would be something more I could do.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You know when you read a post and you are nto sure what to say but you want to comment. This is that time. As a Mum who does not have a diagnosed child I do not know but my belief woudl be that nature and genetics plays a big part. JJ is so much like dh in his behaviours that it is untrue and dh believes they both have autistic traits.

    Mich x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate all comments and sometimes I'm in the same position in not knowing what to say and I then wish that blogger had a 'like' button at least, that would be good x

      Delete
  15. Just an aside: normally I'm meticulous about spelling, but I've just realised I've been spelling Tony Humphreys wrong all week. For which I apologise. I can only assume I was too upset to check.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hey Blue Sky, think you might enjoy this, came across it when looking for the Humphrey's article, wanted to read it myself.

    http://bocktherobber.com/2012/02/autism-spectrum-tony-humphreys-clinical-psychologist-blames-the-parents/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Lisa, thanks for sharing! Yes I saw and read that piece, it's very comprehensive and sadly I don't usually have the time to produce something like that. The response to the original Examiner column has been great and covered every angle I think.

      Delete
  17. Blue sky, th whole idea of refrigerator mums is ludicrous. I am not denying that emotionally neglected children may shutdown but it does not 'cause ' autism. There are fundamental differences. There are studies of children neglected in Romanian orphanages, demonstrating autistic like traits, which reduce and disappear with love and attention. It is clear you love all your children dearly and you shouldn't ever feel guilty. Wasnt the treatment for autism caused by refrigerator mums 'holding therapy' where children were forcibly held against their will for long periods of time. I sincerely hope dr humphreys isnn proposing that!

    ReplyDelete
  18. In my anger and haste I am not sure I managed to explain myself clearly and just wanted to clarify. Some children who are emotionally neglected may demonstrate autistic like tendencies. This is NOT autism. No amount of loving and nurturing will stop a child who is autistic from being autistic.

    Surely common sense would lead you to reason that people on the atheistic spectrum are more drawn to professions in the field of science and mathematics and that the greater number of boys with asd implies a link to the x chromosome. I'm no expert but mr humphreys appears to be spouting rather old theories that were disproved a long time ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe they were disproved long ago as well - but wouldn't you know? The controversy still continues for a second week..

      Delete
  19. Sorry that was supposed to say autistic spectrum

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't worry I was so upset that I spelt the man's name wrong!

      Delete
  20. I want to say I am shocked but I actually know a couple of people (know, not friends) who also think like this. It is ignorance to the extreme. Thank you very much for linking up to the BritMums monthly round-up C xxxx

    ReplyDelete
  21. @Allforaleyna - Sorry to hear you know people who think like this - a lot of autism awareness still to do I think!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I have autism. I was treated like this by psychotherapists who said that I am the way I am because of cold mothering and attachment disorder (one recommended me to read about Bowlby). I am in Ireland and a lot of psychologists believe the same as Tony Humphreys - they are not vocally criticising him either.

    ReplyDelete
  23. @Sam - Thanks for commenting and I'm very sad to read what you have to say. I am also surprised that you think that many psychologists agree with Tony Humphreys - that's certainly not the official line:

    http://www.thejournal.ie/controversial-autism-article-should-be-retracted-psychological-society-of-ireland-350914-Feb2012/

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm coming into this discussion very late but I just had to comment. Sorry, this is an essay!
    Over the years a lot of people, some expert, some not, have blamed me for my son's condition. (he wasn't diagnosed until his late teens)
    Initially, my parenting was blamed.
    He didn't feed well and he didn't sleep. I was told my milk might be inadequete or I needed to work harder at establishing a routine.
    When he didn't talk, I was asked. "Do you ever talk to your son, Mrs...?"
    Problems at primary school were glossed over, prossibly because we had moved over from England into a tight-knit rural community, we spoke differently, my husband didn't do a conventional job and I think people pretty much expected our kids to be odd. There were meltdowns at school, problems with bullies but an assessment was refused.

    When the diagnosis finally came the experts were very interested in my husband, but he refused to see them. They told me they were almost certain Asperger's was passed from father to son.
    My husband was convinced the problem was with me. I was 'cold, peculiar, unable to relate to people'.
    I accepted this because a lot of what he said rang true. I had been a quiet, bookish child with few friends and people did tell me I was peculiar as a teenager.

    The experts were unconvinced. I was given a book written by adults living with Aspie partners. I didn't relate to any of their stories, that convinced me even more that it was me.
    I did learn however that children of parents with Asperger's often end up with Aspie partners. Behaviour that other people would see as emotional abuse feels normal to them because they grew up with it. That got me looking at my own family. Boxes ticked.

    Eight years, one divorce and a course of counselling later, I know my parenting wasn't to blame and I'm no longer convinced that I'm the Aspie parent at least, not the only one. Possibly, I do have it; I think I'm too old now for anyone to be sure.
    My husband definitely. He had meltdowns too, (I didn't have a word for it until I read your blog) but then, so did my dad. I just thought that was normal.
    When my husband's father died and I discovered that he had kept all his petrol reciepts in order of date for over fifty years, the final piece clicked into place.

    A lot of people have vested interests in placing the blame and a caring parent is an easy target. We want the best for our kids and we are often afraid we might have unintentionally made things worse for them when we were trying to help.
    If, like mine, your ex- is trying to avoid admitting he might have a problem then blaming you is the easiest way of creating a smoke-screen and getting off the hook. My ex- told me I was 'cold' but he was the one who couldn't bear to be touched.

    It's hard to see clearly when your feelings are raw and you are coping with so much.
    What I'm saying is, don't be too quick to accept other people's judgements and criticisms. Sometimes it's just ignorance but other times it comes from trying to cover up their own failings and inadequecies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your comments here and elsewhere! As I've written elsewhere it looks as though I may have aspergers too, but at this stage in my life I don't see the point in pursuing it. (I have all my utility bills from the past 15 years - so far - filed away neatly in date order in lever arch folders) I don't 'accept' other people's judgements, but they still have the power to hurt...

      Delete