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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
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Column Does Tony Humphreys believe I don't love my children enough?

The psychologist suggested autism could be linked to a lack of parental love. Here the mother of a boy with Asperger’s syndrome describes her experiences.

Last week, clinical psychologist Tony Humphreys published an article drawing a link between autism and parents not expressing love and affection for their children. Here, the mother of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome responds to Humphreys’ assertions.

OFTEN THE MOST dangerous theories are those which contain a grain of truth, and that is why this article is so upsetting to me.  You see I can relate to some of it, I can tick the boxes in each paragraph, and as my son was only diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2000, my feelings are still quite raw.

And please note that this is a personal account.  Other parents of children on the autistic spectrum may have completely different views – I do not intend to offend anyone.

Tony Humphreys mentions research that suggests that the children of high-achieving parents, especially engineers, scientists and computer programmers are more likely to have children with autism.  And guess what, family members on both sides have worked in these professions.  Such people are more likely to ‘live in their heads’ he says, and as a result there is an ‘absence of expressed love and affection’ in their lives.  Well anyone who knows me will know how much I adore my kids and how much I’ve done for them.

And yet.

My son’s birth was difficult and I didn’t bond with him as quickly as I did with my girls.  I was also accused of being ‘cold’ during the breakdown of my marriage.  Difficult and different behaviours were clearly shown by my son at school, but everyone assumed their escalation resulted from that breakdown.

I imagine that Tony Humphreys would argue that they did.

‘He might find it very easy to blame the parents?’

He might find it very easy to blame the parents for causing Asperger’s in my son, based on his theories.  And perhaps other people who read the article, even people we know, will do the same.  Perhaps my son will blame me when he is older.

And that’s why the article hurts.  My son was less than 6 months old when I began to worry about his development.  I kept thinking that I had the solution: a tonsillectomy, counselling, resource hours.  And I gave him lots and lots of love.  But none of it was enough.  And to hear another expert on the radio today saying that many high-functioning children would do just as well with no intervention at all – you should have seen my son in his old school.

Suspension was the next step.  How would that have helped him?  And he was so angry. And neither of us knew why.  Having an explanation and a diagnosis helps both of us.  With a diagnosis we have access to advice, information, services, support and a fabulous school where he is starting to fulfil his potential.

And I have to keep reminding myself that just because the some of the facts of my son’s life may fit with Tony Humphries’ theories, it does not prove cause and effect.

I do suspect a genetic component in Asperger’s syndrome and I see many Aspie traits in myself.  But I don’t think that I’m a refrigerator mum, do you?

The author is the mother of two girls and a 10-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, and a blogger. You can read more at Looking for Blue Sky.

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