14 Feb 2012

The Good News According to Tony

I my previous post I wrote about the Tony Humphreys radio interview. I messed up the html somewhere and am unable to edit that post- even to add a title and there was another part of the interview I wanted to write about so I shall do so here.

Tony Humphreys said something that can't be left unopposed. This is what he claimed was his good news message. He told the interviewer, Claire Byrne:
"when I wrote that article, Claire, I thought this was good news. I thought that I was going to ... that parents would be relieved ... "I haven't passed any neurobiological defect on to my children, or any genetic defect." The news now is that there are creative possibilities if we examine everything in our own lives and our children's lives, we may now discover, "Oh My God, this is what may help my child and myself to have a deeper relationship."" (Emphasis mine.)

This is not good news. This is an outrageously disablist, callous and immoral position to hold. Tony Humphreys thinks we will be relieved at not having passed on our children's conditions genetically. The corollary is that he thinks we out to feel shame if our children are born with a genetic condition (or defect, to use his term) like Fragile X, or Huntingdon's Disease, or Sickle Cell, or Down Syndrome -or autism. He has this bizarre idea that we will be pleased to know that our genes lack any of those icky, troublesome defects and it was just the way we failed to raise our children properly that caused all the trouble. But hey, here comes Tony with a solution- creative examinations to build deeper relationships- or something.

What Tony doesn't understand is that I am proud of my children, pleased that my genes go towards making each of them who they are. I delight in my one perfectly autistic son. He is not defective. Many people who have autistic children are themselves autistic to some degree. More of us share some Broader Autism Phenotypes. Why would this man expect me to feel shame of something I am only proud of?

Some of the genetic conditions I listed result in illness or shortened life-span. In those cases also, guilt or shame have no place in effective parenting. Parents can be proud of their children and do their best for them while supporting proper research efforts to improve the lives of their children.

For that reason we do well to avoid the quacks and snake-oil salespeople who promise creative possibilities for problems we don't actually agree that we have.


sharon Morris said...

There's no doubt my sons autism can be attributed to the genetic soup of my husband and I. It was probably inevitable. I find comfort in that knowledge.
I too was horrified at the implication in that statement by Humphreys. The suggestion being that if we learn to love our children 'better' then we can somehow erase the autism. He really has no idea does he.

Anonymous said...

I am an adult with autism, and I listened to that broadcast on Saturday. I don't know if everyone realises how autism means that we live in a different aural universe, and we don't catch all the words in a conversation, and (obviously) we miss a lot of the emotional flow that helps other people fill in the gaps.
What he actually said is twice as horrifying as what I remember hearing him say. He is actually claiming some kind of Good News miracle healing that will undo the (unconscious, unintended) abuse that our parents did to us. And he said that the abuse is a better story than being "a defect" - which is what we really are, neurobiologically speaking. He offered a religious statement dressed up as science.

Sharon McDaid said...

@me, in my experience many parents at 1st deny the possibility that their child's autism could be in any way hereditary. They say there is no trace of autism in their family but often when they think on, they remember the great-uncle who never married, had a particular routine and who could tell you everything about county GAA scores and fixtures or the old train network or something.

Humphreys' idea of loving autism out of our child isn't new either, it's what the Son Rise cult sells as it's brand of cure. It's a money raking scam.

@anon, thanks for your comment. As so often happens, the impact of all this on autistic people has been overlooked. I am disgusted that this man should claim that the diagnosis people have and which helps them have a better understanding of themselves, isn't real.

I quite agree, he is saying that if autism is the result of (unconsciously) abusive parenting, we should be happy, but if it is a genetic variability, we should feel shame.
He makes these pronouncements as though he is speaking from the pulpit for sure. This is not science, this is his own particular faith.
And then he has the cheek to instruct us to read the research!

Pam said...

I don't think a parent should feel shame for having a son with autism. As a parent of a daughter with autism, I feel guilty because I get so burned out trying to give her all the attention she needs. It's nobody's fault, I am just struggling to be a better mother, but I'm finding sites like http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-pcs in helping me create the time I need to give to my daughter. For any parent in the same position, I highly recommend taking a look!

Jean said...

Words fail me re Humphries. It is dreadfully sad, not to mention frightening, that some people may actually believe what he has to say XXX