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"Autism is a theory" - Tony Humphreys defends controversial article

The psychologist said that he had never blamed parents for causing autism and he had been “saddened” by the response to his article.

Tony Humphreys speaking on TV3's Ireland AM this morning
Tony Humphreys speaking on TV3's Ireland AM this morning
Image: Screengrab via TV3

CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST TONY Humphreys has defended remarks he made in a controversial article about autism, saying that the disorder is “a theory”.

Humphreys said his suggestion that autism is caused by environmental factors is substantiated by current research.

“When you use the word autism you’re suggesting it’s a fact. Autism is a theory. It is not a fact,” he said on TV3′s Ireland AM this morning.

“I never in all my life have blamed parents. I’ve been absolutely saddened by the response [to the article]. It was not the response in any way which I expected,” he said.

In the article in the Irish Examiner earlier this month, Humphreys suggested that there is a link between Autism Spectrum Disorders and parents not expressing love and affection to their children. The Irish Examiner has since removed the article from its website.

The article was sharply criticised by the Irish Autism Society and other autism groups.

“I wrote the article with good intentions, and the good intention was to give information of the present understanding of autism,” said Humphreys today.

He said that family narratives, community narratives, and the story of each child all influenced diagnoses of autism, and that “all the new research” says environmental factors are the cause.

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When asked about why he wouldn’t discuss the article with the parent of an autistic child on air Humphreys said: “I didn’t want to get into an argument with a parent who must feel so hurt that suddenly research suggests that there is no such thing as autism”.

Minister for Health James Reilly said last week that Humphrey’s claim that there was a link between parenting and autism was “utterly outrageous”.

The Psychological Society of Ireland were also critical of the remarks and said that the article was “not supported by the vast body of research“.

Watch the full interview here >

Insulting and outrageous: James Reilly slams Tony Humphreys autism comments >

Controversial autism article should be retracted – Psychological Society of Ireland >

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Christine Bohan

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