I Could Hardly Believe My Ears…..

I could hardly believe my ears as I listened in shock to the Joe Duffy Show on Feb 7th. First I thought that I had imagined what I was hearing but it soon became clear that Dr. Tony Humphreys had written an article in the Irish Examiner on the 3rd Feb. Suggesting that Autism does not exist and that children displaying autistic characteristics are doing so because of bad parenting, or because of parents not connecting emotionally with their children!

I turned the radio up even though I was listening with my adult daughter who has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, and glad that she is now mature enough to hear what was being said and recognise it for the total rubbish that it is.

Anyhow, I had to get my hands on the article. Of course for some strange reason it couldn’t be found on the Irish Examiner web site, although the response from the Examiner which had been published on the 7th feb, was to be found.

Someone very kindly sent me this link on the Irish Autism Action Facebook page and so I began to pick through the article bit by bit, because I, unlike Dr. Humphreys would never make a sweeping statement without knowing at least something about it!

In his article Tony Humphreys has misquoted and taken out of context many, many things. The first paragraph of his article reads as follows:

A team of researchers at Cambridge University is currently exploring the connection between high-achieving parents, such as engineers, scientists and computer programmers and the development of their children. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, who is the director of the Autism Research Centre at the University, says there are indications that adults who have careers in the areas of science and math are more likely to have autistic children.”

I have no problem with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen saying that there are indications that adults who have careers in the area of science and maths are more likely to have autistic children. This is what his research is showing and I would have a tendency to agree with him (just from my own observations and nothing more scientific than that!)

The next paragraph is where Humphreys begins to show his complete arrogance and ignorance.

In studies in 1997 and 2001 it was found that children and grandchildren of engineers were more likely to be autistic and that mathematicians had higher rates of autism than other professions. What is shocking is that Dr. Baron-Cohen and the team of researchers are one: assuming that autism is a scientific fact and, two: missing the glaringly obvious fact that if the adults they researched live predominately in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity.”

Where is the research that shows Engineers and Mathematicians live in their heads??? And have no heart qualities??? Now Dr. Humphreys, this is where you need to back up your glaringly obvious stupidity with fact!!! Oh and if we’re going to be scientific, emotions take place in the brain (head)!!! And the heart is a pumping organ to keep blood circulating through the body.

The next little bit is very true:

After all, the deepest need of every child is to be unconditionally loved and the absence of it results in children shutting down emotionally themselves because to continue to spontaneously reach out for love would be far too painful.

But then he says

Children’s well being mostly depends on emotional security – a daily diet of nurture, love, affection, patience, warmth, tenderness, kindness and calm responses to their expressed welfare and emergency feelings.

“To say that these children have a genetic and/or neurobiological disorder called autism or ASD (Autistic Spectrum disorder) only adds further to their misery and condemns them to a relationship history where their every thought and action is interpreted as arising from their autism.”

I would love to know where he gets the idea that every thought and action of our ASD children is interpreted as arising from their autism?? What complete and total nonsense!! This is where Dr. Humphreys is either too stupid or too lazy to check out his facts. The editor of the Irish Examiner should at least have done so. Surely that is what an editor is paid to do???

Humphreys then goes on to suggest that there is unconscious collusion between parents and teachers!!!

It is frequently the case that when these children go to school that their emotional and social withdrawal of eccentricities are noticed, mainly by teachers, who themselves can struggle with how best to respond to these children. An unconscious collusion can emerge between parents and teachers to have these children psychiatrically assessed so that the spotlight is put on the children and not their adult carers’ own emotional and social struggles. Regretfully, the relationship contexts of the children’s lives are not examined and their mature development is often sacrificed on the fires of the unresolved emotional defences of those adults who are responsible for their care.”

So now Dr. Humphreys has just discredited all parents of autistic children, all autistic children, all autistic adults, all teachers of autistic children and all the professionals who have diagnosed those children with a “mythical condition”!!! Well done Dr. Humphreys!

In the next paragraph Dr. Humphreys decides to be patronising and say that carers of these children do not consciously block their children’s’ wellbeing!!!

It is important to hold to the fact that these carers do not consciously block their children’s wellbeing.

The rest of the paragraph makes no sense to me so I won’t comment.

But the unconscious hope of children is that other adults (teachers, relatives, educational psychologists, care workers) that when they are emotionally and socially troubled, it is their adult carers who often need more help than they do.”

Perhaps someone else might be able to tell me what the good Doctor is trying to say???

The next little bit is probably true.

Indeed, my experience in my own psychological practice is that when parents and teachers resolve their own fears and insecurities, children begin to express what they dare not express before their guardians resolved their own emotional turmoil.”p>

But this is in general and not directly related to anyone on the autistic spectrum. Indeed since in Dr. Humphreys opinion autism doesn’t exist it is extremely unlikely he’s ever had a client with autism (real or imagined)!

The next paragraph states:

A clear distinction needs to be made between the autism described by psychiatrist Leo Kanner in 1943 and the much more recently described ASD (autistic spectrum disorder, often referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome). The former ‘condition’ was an attempt to understand severely emotionally withdrawn children, the latter concept, which is being used in an alarmingly and rapidly increasing way, is an attempt to explain children’s more moderate emotional and social difficulties. Curiously – and not at all explained by those health and educational professionals who believe that autism and ASD are genetic and/or neurobiological disorders – is the gender bias of being more diagnosed in boys (a ratio of four to one). This bias is also found with ADHD. Surely that gender phenomenon indicates the probability that boys are reared differently to girls and that due to social and cultural factors boys respond to the troubling behaviours of their adult carers in ways that are radically different to girls.”

There were two studies done in the 1940’s in relation to autism, one by Leo Kanner and one by Hans Asperger. From what I have read the study done by Hans Asperger was on boys only. If this is the case it would explain why more boys than girls are diagnosed. I don’t know if any study has been done on girls only, would be interesting to find out.

Also more than boys and girls being reared differently (which I don’t think they are) would be the fact that boys and girls in general behave somewhat differently.

What is equally distressing is that, as for ADHD, a whole industry involving research, assessment, screening, education and treatment has been developed, despite the absence of any scientific basis or test for either the originally ‘detected’ autism or the for the broader construct of ASD.”

I don’t understand why Dr. Humphreys would find this in the slightest bit distressing, surely it is a good thing that ADHD, ASD etc are being researched, and that people are at least trying to meet their needs.

Dr. Humphreys goes on to say that Sami Timimi and his colleagues have found no scientific evidence for what they now refer to as “mythical disorders”:

Sami Timimi, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and two colleagues rigoursly examined over 5000 research articles on autism and ASD and found no scientific basis for what they now refer to as mythical disorders. They outline their findings in their book ‘The Myth of Autism’ (2011). The conclusion of their in dept studies is that “there is no such thing as autism and the label should be abolished.”

Well Dr. Timimi came on the Joe Duffy Show and clarified his position. He seemed to be more concerned with labelling children and the label might be holding them back in life. His arguments were a little too academic for me to fully get to grips with in such a short space of time but I think I ‘got’ what he meant and he totally rejected Dr. Humphreys interpretation of his work.

The final paragraph reads:

The authors are not saying that the children are not emotionally and socially troubled. What they are saying is – and I concur with them – that the focus needs to be on the relationship contexts of these children’s lives, and to take each child for the individual he or she is and to examine closely the family and community narratives and discover creative possibilities for change and for more dynamic and hopeful stories to emerge for both the children and their carers.”

Well if Humphreys knew anything at all about autistic children and their parents he would know that the focus is always on the relationship. These children receive such un-conditional love and are nurtured so well, in my opinion, parents of autistic children give, out of necessity, much, much more emotionally than parents of neuro typical children.

The last little bit of the article reads:

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a consultant clinical psychologist, author and national and international speaker. His book ‘All About Children” is relevant to today’s article.”

I do wonder if this article was just a publicity stunt to sell his book, after all sometimes bad publicity sells as many, if not more, books than good publicity does. In some way I hope that it was. I would much prefer to think that it was a publicity stunt that back fired, rather than think there is a psychologist out there in practice who is that arrogant and ignorant. That would be even more damaging than his silly, badly researched, quickly put together article.

And with regard to his book! I for one won’t be buying it!

Here’s a couple of links readers will be interested in. http://www.bocktherobber.com/2012/02/autism-spectrum-tony-humphreys-clinical-psychologist-blames-the-parents