"DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the situation with fathers is, is that increasingly—there was a study recently that showed an increasing number of men are having postpartum depression, as well. And the main role of the father, of course, would be to support the mother. But when people are—emotionally, because the cause of postpartum depression in the mother it is not intrinsic to the mother—not intrinsic to the mother.
What we have to understand here is that human beings are not discrete, individual entities, contrary to the free enterprise myth that people are competitive, individualistic, private entities. What people actually are are social creatures, very much dependent on one another and very much programmed to cooperate with one another when the circumstances are right. When that’s not available, if the support is not available for women, that’s when they get depressed. When the fathers are stressed, they’re not supporting the women in that really important, crucial bonding role in the beginning. In fact, they get stressed and depressed themselves.
The child’s brain development depends on the presence of non-stressed, emotionally available parents. In this country, that’s less and less available. Hence, you’ve got burgeoning rates of autism in this country. It’s going up like 20- or 30-fold in the last 30 or 40 years.
AMY GOODMAN: Say what you mean by autism.
DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, autism is a whole spectrum of disorders, but the essential quality of it is an emotional disconnect. These children are living in a mind of their own. They don’t respond appropriately to emotional cues. They withdraw. They act out in an aggressive and sometimes just unpredictable fashion. They don’t know how to—there’s no sense—there’s no clear sense of a emotional connection and just peace inside them.
And there’s many, many more kids in this country now, several-fold increase, 20-fold increase in the last 30 years."
Dr. Gabor Maté, interviewed by Amy Goodman, December 24, 2010
Once upon a time there was a monster born in the darker pits of human imagination, that haunted parents of autistic children in their nightmares, and burst into the bold sunlight of world wide acceptance wreaking havoc on families, particularly mothers, of autistic children. The refrigerator mothers theory of autism, with no evidence in support, blamed mothers of autistic children for their children's autism disorders. The monster was received with a warm embrace for many years by mainstream media, academics and public health authorities alike and caused great harm to autism mothers, families and their children.
Remember too that this was in the days when the vast majority who suffered from what was then called autism suffered from intellectual disabilities and serious deficits in daily functioning, the days before autism was transformed by the DSM-IV, Hollywood and the mainstream media into today's Autism Lite brand of shy quirky personalities. Try to imagine the guilt those mothers must have felt upon being told that their allegedly cold, uncaring personalities caused their children's serious, life limiting disorders. Now the family wrecking monster of the refrigerator mothers theory has stuck its head out of the darkest sewers of academia and threatens once again to slander and malign those who are on the real front lines of the battle to defeat autism: parents of autistic children.
The Autism Pundit, Dr. Sabrina Freeman, in Refrigerator Moms Obsolete When Hell Freezes Over has called out the new generation of Bettelheim autism monsters and pointed specifically at the Canadian physician, Dr. Gabor Maté, who has a "theory" that parental stress is responsible for autism and a variety of other developmental disorders. Dr. Mate even confesses, in a Times Union article, that he has no data to support his whack-a-do version of Bettelheim's Refrigerator mom's theory in which he substitutes stress for lack of emotional nurturing: "He can't prove it, but nothing else makes sense, Maté said."
Dr. Freeman pulls no punches in challenging Maté and other Bettelheim Heirs to back up their theories with data:
"Second, a theory is useless without any data supporting it. Put simply, show us the data, or put a sock in it! Since these big thinkers seem happy to posit theories that they have no plans to test and are, therefore, perennially without data to support them, let me have a go, and posit one of my own. Doctors and researchers with little talent and less integrity, tend to gravitate to fields where there is no known cause and no known cure – like autism. That way, B.S. can be purveyed with impunity, since few folks actually expect rigorous scientific standards of conduct (i.e., proper theory construction, hypothesis development, experimental design, testing, data collection, statistical analyses, presentation of results, and interpretation). In other words, where autism is concerned, it’s still the wild west of science. However, the good news is that as we learn more about the true neurobiology of autism, these ignorant pretenders will be relegated to the Flat Earth Society where they belong." (Bold, underlining added -HLD)
US and Canadian Autism Societies, Autism Speaks, the Association for Science in Autism Treatment and public health authorities should join Dr. Freeman in calling out purveyors of this reincarnation of the Refrigerator Mothers Autism Nightmare and tell them to back up their theories with data or ... as Dr. Freeman said far too politely and with far more respect than they deserve ... put a sock in it.