Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Guest Cluck: Responding to Tony Humphreys

February 5th, 2012 · 46 Comments · Disability, Irish Media

On Friday an article was published in the Irish Examiner by clinical pyschologist Tony Humphreys. It is one of the most inflamatory pieces of pseudo science I’ve read ever. As someone who works with people living with autism and knows many families who have family members diagnosed I know how dangerous and misguided the views expressed by Humphreys are and the potential impact of these views on both government policy and the attitudes of society for people living with the condition. Siobhan O’Neill responds to Humphreys here.

Have you ever read a newspaper article and felt a bit stupid because you couldn’t understand it? A number of people pointed me in the direction of this article yesterday and it took me a good three attempts to get the gist of what Tony Humphreys has to say about autism, or “autism” as I’m sure he likes to call it. After my third attempt, I decided I couldn’t understand the article not because I’m thick, but because it’s the biggest pile of steaming excrement I’ve ever read on the subject.

The gist, as I understood it, is that there’s this clinical psychologist with a book to sell who has decided to call into question the very existence of autism and that for those who are diagnosed with autism, the mammies are to blame for a) not resolving their own ‘emotional turmoil’, b) rearing boys differently to girls and c) living “predominantly in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities”.

So, Tony, my mother clearly showered me with love and affection, nurturing me more than my twin brother and , obviously reared him differently because he’s a boy, therefore he’s autistic and I’m not. Easy.

Ma, your unresolved emotional turmoil is responsible for my twin’s autism. Scarlet for ya. The only emotional turmoil my mother suffers is muttonheads implying that it’s all her fault because she didn’t hug him enough as a child. The fact is, my twin is more loving and openly affectionate than anyone else in my family – he’d make a show of you in Tesco shaking hands with the men and hugging the women on the tills! Is that because he doesn’t get enough love at home? Come on now, Tony, get real.

Ma, you know the way you reared me and my twin totally differently, just for the craic like? Well guess what, it made me twin autistic. You were obviously bored, having reared your first three children in the usual way and decided to have a little experiment when your twins came along. I don’t blame you Ma, it was the days of only two channels and sure you had to make your own fun.

Missus, your child is autistic because you lack heart qualities. What does ‘heart qualities’ even mean? Compassion, patience, love? I don’t know about you Tony, but I’d say watching the same episode of Postman Pat 20 times a day because it makes your autistic child happy demonstrates quite a lot of ‘heart quality’. But then, I’m not a clinical psychologist.

Parents and teachers force children to go through the process of being assessed and diagnosed with autism because it’s easier than facing their own inner turmoil. Seriously? This nonsense got past an editor at the Irish Examiner? Have you ever tried having a child assessed when you don’t have the means to pay for private psychologists? Camping outside the headquarters of the then Eastern Health Board to shame the state into providing decent services for your child? Sure that’s a great distraction altogether from all that inner turmoil. I’d highly recommend it.

Shame on you, for taking a cheap shot at the dedicated, hard-working, loving and often exhausted parents of children with autism. Shame on you for upsetting mothers for the sake of some publicity for your book. Shame on the Irish Examiner for publishing this contemptible, self-serving diatribe.


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