Thursday, October 13, 2011

Return of the Bad Parents Cause Autism Nightmare Monster

"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. 


Claire said...

Wow...unbelievable. You have to wonder why all kids born say, in war zones or born into extreme poverty, aren't all autistic from their stressed out parents. Then you gotta love the line, "Well, autism is a whole spectrum of disorders, but the essential quality of it is an emotional disconnect." Nice easy summation of autism there, eh, Harold? Good heavens that's idiotic.

Usethebrains Godgiveyou said...

Funny you should say that, Claire, because I know his story. His own mother was alone, his father a victim of the Nazi's; she had to make the difficult decision to send him away to save his life.

Dr. Mate also has a lot of guilt because of the way he treated his own children, who came up with the same ADHD he had, and he had not treated them lovingly.

He's trying to make parents see that their children's development is the most important thing, not micro-managing their behaviors or drugging them into compliance.

The thing is, the people who are true monsters as parents will never see themselves in his descriptions, while those with gentle hearts will beat themselves up about it.

Another example of someone working out their own stuff, and seeing it as truth to justify their own choices. He blames himself, so everyone must be guilty.

He is correct, I think, in one view that he has that there is an innate sensitivity to the environment. Our children's emotions/senses are easily triggered. The world is too intense for them.

trainspotter said...

If any of that theory is true than, logically, it should be my younger child that has autism and not my older one.

When my oldest was born, I lived every second of the day for her- happily and stress free. I felt bonded to her from the first minute I held her.

My second child was born two months before my oldest daughter's autism diagnosis- I was super stressed, had PPD, and spent most of the day pushing her aside while I addressed her sister's self injurious behaviours. I didn't feel that I bonded with my second child until she was almost 3 (which I do feel guilty about). She's now 7 years old, wonderfully social, well adjusted, and very smart for her age.

Someone needs to stop these 'intellectuals' from thinking before they decide that overworked, poorly paid, daycare staff are the only ones qualified to properly bond with a child (no offense to daycare).

Claire said...

Dear usethebrains...I agree completely that parents need to attend to their children in personal ways, that balanced, happy parents have a better chance of producing psychologically healthy children. I am a teacher of small children and I know that what happens to them at a young age is very formative of how they will behave the rest of their lives. These behaviours, this psychology, however, can always be changed with will and desire for betterment. This is not the truth for those on the autism spectrum...because autism, ADD and such, I hold to be neurological disorders, brain damage, bad wiring... Some of it can be addressed via diet, and certain forms of direct training...which is repetitive in nature and creates new neural pathways. It's physiological...not psychological...big difference. Understand that many other forms of disability...not just autism...cause hypersensitivty. My daughter, a victim of stroke, is one such person. She is also barely able to handle strong emotions of her own. This is due to brain damage...not parenting.

The Fauxtist said...

I don't know who this guy is, but his name is French. So, for arguments sake I'll assume he is French. The French are still stuck in Freudian Psychoanalysis. They are an island in the western world. You can see this in much of their "research" and much of their therapies such as packing:

No one outside of France, with the exception of a quack here and there, still subscribe to their psychoanalysis. Much of the world research community views France as 50 years behind in its understanding of neurological disorders.

Forgive me if I'm wrong on this doctor, but I'm assuming he is approaching autism from a psychoanalyst position which has been thoroughly destroyed by modern science.

Anonymous said...

fauxtist - he is actually hungarian... a few seconds on google could make a big difference to the 5 minutes of theory you came up with!