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Tony Humphreys stands by controversial autism comments

Speaking on national radio this morning, the clinical psychologist said that children can shut down and stop communicating if parents don’t respond to their efforts at expression.

Image: Andrei! via Creative Commons

CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST Dr Tony Humphreys has reiterated controversial comments he made in an article published in the Irish Examiner last week linking parenting with the development of autism.

In the article, Humphreys suggested that a link lay between autism and parents not expressing love and affection to their young children. The article has been criticised by the Psychological Society of Ireland and Irish Autism Action, and it has since been removed from the Examiner site.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Claire Byrne on the Marian Finucane Show today, Humphreys said that children communicate all the time. If we respond to how children communicate and pick up what they’re trying to express, then they feel secure and continue to communicate, he said.

However, if we don’t, then children “wisely” shut down and stop communicating.

Humphreys added that he doesn’t believe parents deliberately set out to harm their children and that they intend to be loving. Insecurities can block a child’s development, he said, even if it’s not being done consciously.

Asked about the controversy the article had created among psychologists and parents, Humphreys said he was glad it had opened up the debate between different groups of researchers and clinicians.

Read: Controversial autism article should be retracted – PSI >

Column: Does Tony Humphreys believe I don’t love my children enough? >

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