stepped into a time warp that has taken us back to the 1950's when Autism was blamed on so-called "refrigerator mothers" whose coldness towards their children caused them to be developmentally delayed and socially withdrawn.
She also makes an important point about Humphreys' academic pursuits:
Disturbingly I found out today that he lectures on "interpersonal communications" and "parent mentoring" at University College Cork. So potentially there is a student being indoctrinated with these ideas right now.
I have emailed the Vice President for Teaching and Learning at University College Cork and The Centre for Adult Continuing Education, asking them to investigate this matter, writing:
Dr Humphreys even goes so far as to assert in his article that the very existence of autism is not a scientific fact, an utterly ridiculous assertion. These are toxic, false and damaging ideas. It is very worrying that a university of such repute would allow someone holding these views to teach particularly on courses taken by parents and those training to work as Special Needs Assistants.I look forward to hearing their response.
I had emailed Professor Simon Baron-Cohen yesterday to alert him to the misrepresentation of his research in Tony Humphreys' article. He was kind enough to reply that he was going to tweet a public response;
He wrote, "Offensive Irish article blames autism on unemotional parenting and turns the clock back 50 years http://tiny.cc/ffxg8"
It doesn't look good for Tony Humphreys when the researcher he quoted in support of his theory is willing to condemn his article publicly.
Where I focussed on the inaccuracies of his article and the harm they will do to parents, especially of newly diagnosed children, Siobhan O’Neill wrote about growing up with her autistic twin brother, demonstrating clearly how nonsensical Humphreys' notion that a parent can make their child autistic really is.
Another post at Three Mile Limit took issue with factual errors in Humphreys article and offered to give him a name for his hypothesis, "Refrigerator Cousin."
Mike Stanton examined more closely Humphreys' claim that the "Myth of Autism" book he referenced backs up his notions and found that not even this was true:
Skip to page page 293 when the authors clearly stateBock the Robber writes about Humphreys former role as a cleric:
We are NOT saying any of the following: 1. Autism is a condition caused by poor parenting.That is concurring with Humphreys attack on parents who possess few or no heart qualities? It seems only right that ill-written books should be ill-read. But, bad as it is, The Myth of Autism does not deserve to be as badly read as it was by Tony Humphreys, if he read it at all.
the denunciation of parents in the article of Tony Humphreys has a smell of clericalism about it. This article sounds a lot like the sort of judgemental nonsense we heard from priests and bishops over many years.After listing the errors in the Examiner article he makes a valid point:
If you're a scientist, present your research. Publish your research papers. List the peer-reviewed publications you've produced.If only we lived in a world where it worked like this.
If you're not a scientist, don't presume to talk about things you don't understand.
The last post I have noticed is by Magnumlady who writes:
We are living in a world where it’s hard to get by if you have a disability (especially an unseen one) and are trying to get people to understand about autism. It’s not helped by articles like this.I quite agree.
Many people have expressed their hurt and shock at the Irish Autism Action Facebook page where the article was transcribed.
Eventually The Irish Examiner made a response, of sorts. This afternoon they released the following on twitter:
"We will be publishing a full range of reaction in tomorrow's edition relating to Tony Humphrey's column in Friday's Feelgood." link
"While giving a platform to diverse opinions is central to our journalism the views of TH on autism should not be mistaken as our own." link
(The irony that a piece which made so many feel so rotten was published in a section entitled "Feelgood" is not lost on me.)
I find it astonishing that the Irish Examiner feels this is an appropriate response. No one who has complained that the article is damaging and toxic believed that it was an editorial. It was not clearly marked as an opinion piece. Even if it was, it was irresponible and unethical to give a platform to such a piece, lacking as it did all veracity and which has caused real harm.
Already I have witnessed the people who argue that there must be something to Humphreys' arguments- that there are too many children labelled, that diagnoses are made too quickly, that perhaps parents need to look at themselves- as if we don't! None of this is based on fact- but newspaper articles like this one make it harder for families to convince people that their children's disabilities are real and that they require adaptations and support.
The Examiner have contacted some people who emailed them (not me) and asked permission to publish their letters. It appears they will be hosting a vox-pop, as though there is any doubt that Humphreys wrote an article entirely lacking merit. He was mistaken, the paper should apologise and retract the piece.
Please let me know in the comments if there are any other posts I may not have noticed yet so I can add them to the list. Thanks.