9 Feb 2012

Excuses Not Apology from Irish Examiner and Tony Humpreys

Dr Tony Humphreys said parents were "never to blame" for autism and his intention was simply "to inform and enlighten" the public of research in the area.
Tony Humphreys needs to be clearer- he needs to say, "On Friday I had an article published in which I directly and unequivocally claimed that bad parenting causes autism.I was wrong and I apologise."
Because that is what happened. This is just more bullshit spin. He was not attempting to "inform and enlighten" he was making a claim he had zero evidence for.
He has been severely criticised for his article in last Friday’s Irish Examiner which gave the impression parents were to blame for their child’s condition. Yesterday, he said he never intended "to hurt anybody".
The article did more than "[give] the impression parents were to blame for their child’s condition" in the article he made his opinion perfectly clear- parents are to blame for their child's condition.

Tony Humphreys is quoted:
"My intentions were honourable. I wanted to inform the public of up-to-date research that is there. It was never my intention to hurt anybody.
"I have the greatest compassion for parenting. It is the most important profession we have in society and one which we get the least preparation for. We don’t prepare parents for the complexity of what is involved."
I care not what his intentions were, I'm interested in the facts and the very real effects. If he hadn't intended to hurt anyone he should not have written his toxic, damaging article. He did not inform the public of up-to-date research, he was rehashing a theory comprehensibly discredited 50 years ago.
Dr Humphreys said he simply wished to show research that had proposed a broader examination of autism rather than focusing on it as simply a genetic neurobiological disorder.

"There are complexities and intricacies of family life that didn’t come through in what has been said.
"What I wanted to inform people of is that we need to look at children in a broader sense and look at every aspect of their lives, every relationship they have, at their social and economic experiences, rather than just focusing on a hypothetical, neurobiological defect.
"I wanted to point out that we should look at every aspect of a child’s life in order to truly understand why children behave a certain way," he said.
Tony Humphreys informed people of nothing but his own prejudice and ignorance. He may have seen this going differently in his imagination but thankfully, I don't live in Tony Humphreys' head and the reality is, he hasn't a clue what current research says. His buff about looking into the families of children with autism counts for nothing. Is he going to have someone poke into the "complexities and intricacies" of everyone's family life? We know from his other writings that he thinks parents cause all sorts of conditions from IBS to asthma, so Tony Humphreys would probably say yes, lets examine the dynamics of every family in the country and check they adhere to some state mandated level of love and support. That's bound to work.
At a public meeting in Cork last night, a mother of a five-year-old boy with autism confronted him but he refused to elaborate on what he had written in the Irish Examiner, and said he had already given his response to criticism.
Well done that mum. He has given a response, but it is totally inadequate.
Dr Tony Humphreys responded to comments on blogs and social media websites which questioned his professional background. He pointed out he had a BA (hons) and MA (hons) in applied psychology from UCC and a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Birmingham.

Dr Humphreys worked for eight years with Mid-Western Health Board psychiatric services and for two years in Staffordshire Health Authority in Britain. He also has 20 years’ experience as a courses director and lecturer in UCC.
His qualifications do not protect him from justifiable criticism. Parents of autistic children, autistic people themselves and professionals with a real knowledge and understanding of the condition are united in their criticism of his piece. Knowledgeable, experienced and skilled psychologists, both educational and clinical, have expertise on autism and can be incredibly helpful to families. I have had valuable input from these professionals at various stages. Tony Humphreys is bringing the profession into disrepute. Parents may be put off using their services in fear of finding others with stone age views like Humphreys.

I also am very concerned that a man with his views is allowed to teach anyone and the reputation of UCC is damaged by its connection with this man.


Jean said...

Hear hear! XXX

Anonymous said...

Just to remind myself of what Tony Humphreys wrote, which "**was not intended to blame or hurt anyone**":

"What is shocking is [...] assuming that autism is a scientific fact and ... the glaringly obvious fact that if the adults they researched live predominanently 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.
... 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.
... 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.
... 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.
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 for the broader construct of ASD."

This does not "enlighten and inform me", it is an outrageous attack on my identity as an autistic person.

Anonymous said...

I swore several times at home to spare your readers, and share this little Tony Humphreys gem of enlightening clinical knowledge: "I am not at all ruling out that there may be a biological origin to children’s distress, but apart from severe autism, I have had no need to have recourse to a possible biological hypothesis. Children’s challenging behaviours are not designed to make life difficult for parents, teachers and communities. However, they are designed to bring attention to the difficult lives that they are undergoing. Psychiatry claims that to involve the parents in the assessment of children’s turmoil is ‘blaming parents.’ In my practice I have never come across any parent who deliberately sets out to block the progress of his or her child. But, if truth be told, and hopefully Tim O’Malley will continue to throw down the gauntlet of truth, parents (and teachers) can only bring children to the same level of development they have reached themselves." (http://www.tonyhumphreys.ie/news/previous/039omalley.html)

No need to attribute autism to anything but the parents, except "severe autism"!

Liz Ditz said...

Very well (and forcefully) written, Sharon. And thanks anonymous for the two quotes.

Anonymous said...

I think that Tony Humphries was very naive in writing this article and did not explain himself at all well. I believe that he was most likely referring not so much to autism as aspergers disorder which share similarities but are also quite different. Aspergers disorder can be over diagnosed. this is not to say that it does not exist. Also I would point out that in diagnosing someone with an ASD an important differential to rule out is avoidant attachment which involves a withdrawn personality style and is linked to parenting. Professionals in the field of diagnosis would be aware of this. He does have a doctorate in clinical psychology and is a well respected psychologist. However in this instance I believe he did not present is argument in a meaningful way or in the appropriate forum.

Sharon McDaid said...

@Jean, all those involved seem unable to feel shame.

@Anon1 When you read what he wrote it is impossible to see how he thinks he can get away with saying he intended no harm. It is an attack on your identity. In all the furore- the defamation of autistic people has been overlooked.

@Anon2 I'll tolerate a bit of righteous swearing here!
That's a hell of a quote- he's damned by his own words time and again as a parent blamer.

@Liz Ha! The force is strong in me this week!