Harold L Doherty builds a strawman army

18 Feb

I’ve been reading Mr Doherty for awhile now. He keeps a blog that discusses his views on autism advocacy and to his credit he stresses the importance of evidence based methods for helping his autistic son, Conor. This means he holds the vaccine/autism bull in as much disdain as I do.

However, this would seem to be the beginning and the end of his skeptical nature. He has, over recent weeks, been involved in a blog war with Michelle Dawson during which he claims (as far as I can see) that Ms Dawson is actively campaigning against ABA based therapies. Ms Dawson claims (with some justification) that what she is doing is suggesting that ABA is not the only methodology that helps. He makes occasional side references to this issue in the comments of blog posts such as this one in response to Kristina’s take on autism mythology:

Today, in place of Bettleheim, we have new forces ready to condemn parents of autistic children. Bettleim’s handiwork today is done by those who attack parents because they advocate for improved health and education of their autistic children and are accused of violating the human rights of all persons with autism by doing so. One hurtful urban myth gives way to another.

This was the first of Mr Doherty’s strawmen army that I noticed. I asked Mr Doherty to back up his position with a quote from someone actually doing that:

Could you provide an example of someone attacking parents of autistic people for advocating for improved health and education for the reason that these same people think that improved health and education violate human rights?

To which he answered:

If you want an example try this one, a comment attributed to Ms. Dawson in reference to parent advocates “they make me sick” is what she is quoted as having said

And he is correct, that’s indeed what she said. However, that wasn’t what I asked. I asked for a quote that showed someone attacking parents of autistic people for advocating for improved health and education for the reason that these same people think that improved health and education violate human rights, which Ms Dawson’s stated opinion clearly does not. Mr Doherty’s reply was:

I gave you a very obvious example. You simply refuse to accept the statement for what it is.

Which is just a new variation on the close minded doggerel.

Today I noted a new post from Mr Doherty. This post is simply one logical fallacy after another. He starts of by defining ‘Sirens’ for us as those who would seduce sailors to their deaths with sweet sounds.

Lets not forget that a siren is also that which makes a long, wailing, irritating noise.

Anyway. Lets address Mr Doherty’s first strawman:

Parents and families of children newly diagnosed with autism will face many daunting, at times overwhelming challenges. As the father of a soon to be 11 year old boy with classic Autism Disorder I have dealt with those realities for the 9 years since my son was diagnosed at age 2. One of the more seductive challenges that parents will face is the siren calls of those who oppose any effort to treat, educate or heaven forbid change an autistic child for the better. Do not listen to the sirens’ call.

This paragraph encapsulates the position of the rest of the post perfectly. It also reveals its weakness. It is simply a strawman argument. A regurgitation and expansion of his comment on Kristina’s blog. No one I know has ever opposed ‘any effort to treat, educate or change an autistic child for the better’. If Mr Doherty believes they have I would appreciate seeing supporting material or quotes. As has happened many times before, Mr Doherty is taking a very easy to understand proposition – that desiring a cure for autism is not analogous to respecting autistic people – and imbuing it with false exaggerations in order to demonise that position.

Here’s another example:

The sirens will outright mislead you and tell you that autism is not a disorder or a disability, that it is simply another variation in the human condition, neither good nor bad

Again, this is simply false. I personally tell people that autism is both a disability _and_ a difference. To pretend that being autistic cannot present one with disabling situations is ridiculous _so nobody I know presents it as a belief_. That includes Ms Dawson.

The sirens will not talk about such realities as lack of communication, self injurious behavior, or lack of awareness of potentially life threatening dangers posed by automobiles or broken glass. The sirens will not tell you that some autistic children are sent home from neighborhood schools sometimes in handcuffs or that they are sometimes housed in criminal detention centers for youths because no decent facilities exist in which autistic youths and adults with severe behavioral issues can reside. They will not talk to you about autistic adults residing in mental health hospitals.

Here we say Mr Doherty taking the ‘scattergun’ approach to logical fallacy. Just about every sentence in that scaremongering paragraph is fallacious. For example, its no secret that my daughter doesn’t speak. Ballastexitenz has a whole category regarding self-injurious behaviour. I have written more than once about the horrors that can happen when there is a lack of decent facilities for autistic youths and adults, as has Ballastexistenz, Mike Stanton, Kristina Chew and most of the online community Mr Doherty would think of as falling under the umbrella of ‘sirens’.

The attraction of the siren’s call is the attraction of sweet surrender. If a parent is told that their child’s autism is a beautiful thing, a joy to be embraced by the parent it will be easier to let go, to give up and to refrain from taking on the enormous challenge of doing the best that can be done for your child. It is not easy to raise, care for and educate many autistic children. It is absolutely one of the most rewarding tasks a parent can face but it is challenging, stressful and costly. It would be easy to give up and let go.

Here we have another old ‘ND’ logical fallacy – that accepting autism is the same as doing nothing. I can personally attest that this is laughably fallacious. What my wife and I spend most of our time on is raising, caring for and educating our children – including our autistic daughter. Mr Doherty’s implication that those of us who don’t believe in the things he does have have given up is a particularly cowardly and distasteful Ad Hominem fallacy.

Moving away from logical fallacies, Mr Doherty expresses what – to my mind – are gravely disturbing opinions regarding the nature of acceptance and moving on:

The sirens will tell you not to mourn for your autistic child, to accept your child’s autism; the will even tell you to find joy in your child’s autism. They will encourage you to accept your child as he or she is and not to seek to change your child.

Mr Doherty seems to be alluding to the essay ‘Don’t Mourn For Us‘ with this statement. If so it is an incorrect reference. Here’s what Jim Sinclair says about mourning:

Some amount of grief is natural as parents adjust to the fact that an event and a relationship they’ve been looking forward to isn’t going to materialize. But this grief over a fantasized normal child needs to be separated from the parents’ perceptions of the child they do have: the autistic child who needs the support of adult caretakers and who can form very meaningful relationships with those caretakers if given the opportunity

Mr Doherty’s exhortation to wallow in grief seems to me to be the opposite of sense and practicality. There have been times in my life I have mourned friends and family who have died. I don’t believe it is healthy to try and force a relationship that is motivated or fed on grief. The autistic child is _still alive_ . To behave as if it is dead is not, in my opinion, a good thing for parent or child.

I would indeed heartily recommend finding the joy in your child’s autism. It is there to be found if you look. My autistic child is a delight. Yesterday was her 7th birthday and we had a great time doing the things _she_ likes. We didn’t have a party. We didn’t make her unwrap her presents. We didn’t have lots of people around. It was just the five of us. We did it that way as that’s what _she_ feels comfortable with. It was truly a lovely day. I don’t understand why Mr Doherty would rather (if I understand him) I turned these sort of days into a funeral dirge.

I would also like to once again quote from one of my favourite peer reviewed papers entitled: _”A qualitative investigation of changes in the belief systems of families of children with autism or Down syndrome”_. In this paper the authors have investigated the lives of families who have autistic members or members with Down’s Syndrome:

Over time, parents may experience changes in ways of seeing their child, themselves and the world. These new perspectives may encompass profound rewards, enrichments, and the appreciation of the positive contributions made by people with disabilities


A wide range of positive changes or transformational outcomes have been reported by parents of children with disabilities, including: the development of personal qualities such as patience, love, compassion and tolerance (Summers et al 1989; Behr & Murphy 1993; Scorgie & Sobsey 2000; Kausar et al. 2003); improved relationships with family members and others (Stainton & Besser 1998; Scorgie & Sobsey 2000; Kausar et al 2003); stronger spiritual or religious beliefs (Yatchmenoffet al. 1998; Scorgie & Sobsey 2000; Poston & Turnbull 2004); an ability to focus on the present (Featherstone 1980); and a greater appreciation of the small and simple things in life (Abbott & Meredith 1986; Kausaret al. 2003). Studies therefore indicate that, with time and experience, parents of children with disabilities may come to regain a sense of control over their circumstances and a sense of meaning in life by seeing the positive contributions of their children with respect to personal growth and learning whatis important.


Our children have taught us the true worth of an individual. Our society tends to value persons based on performance, knowledge, education, the ability to earn income. And these children have taught us that there are so many more inherently important values, which have shaped us as a family.


Another thing that makes me feel that I am so much smarter than I used to be is that I have given up trying to fix my son. . . . All I have to do is figure out . . . what he wants and what will make him happy, and try to put a structure around it. . . . He’s fine the way he is, and it was for me to figure that out and, gee, the poor guy while I was figuring that out.


And it’s true that if you don’t change the way you think about this child, if you always think that you wanted to have a normal child and you are always comparing your child to a normal child, you’ll never really be accepting and you just don’t get anywhere.

I hope Mr Doherty can one day stop constructing strawmen to fight his battles and can start to appreciate the truths he ignores.


Mr Doherty failed to publish many of the comments I know he received. That’s fine – his blog, his rules. He did however make another post on the subject which I’ll reproduce below:

When I posted yesterday about “Neurodiversity’s” attempts to downplay the existence of severely autistic persons I expected, and received, some heated comments although some were civil and on topic enough to post. But none of the comments that I received acknowledged a central reality that the Neurodiversity movement seems ashamed to admit – that there are many autistic persons in the world whoin fact are severely disabled, who are dangerous to themselves and who require 24/7 care and attendance to ensure their safety. I am still waiting for one of the Neurodiversity advocates to admit these truths – but I am not holding my breath while I wait.

The ugly truth is that many in the Neurodiversity movement seem ashamed to acknowledge the existence of severely autistic persons – like my son.

Here we see yet more Strawmen. Mr Doherty has shifted from specifics – as he was challenged on them and obviously had no response – back to generalities. He now states that the neurodiversity ‘movement’ fail to acknowledge a ‘central reality’ – that there are autistic people who:

a) are severely disabled
b) are dangerous to themselves
c) who require 24/7 care

He claims he is still waiting for one of the neurodiversity advocates to admit these truths, but (put on a lofty tone of voice) ‘I am not holding my breath while I wait’.

Several times in my blogging career I have mentioned my great uncle. He died some years ago. He was born before 1920 and I never met him. He was according to his sister-in-law, my grandmother, severely disabled and whilst he was not considered dangerous he was adjudged to need 24/7 care which he duly received. He was occasionally self-injurious and during those times he was, I suppose, a danger to himself.

As I say, this is not the first time I have mentioned my great uncle. If Mr Doherty spent as much time researching the stated facts regarding those he chooses to misrepresent as he does constructing logically weak arguments then we might do away with all this silliness.

80 Responses to “Harold L Doherty builds a strawman army”

  1. Lucas McCarty February 21, 2007 at 22:54 #

    The first possible issue that comes to my mind when someone asks me what I think of ABA is my favourite of all of *Sod’s Laws*: The Law of Unintended Consequences. It’s the one that renders the most noble, well-intended or even carefully plannned courses of action utterly worthless unless it is widely scrutinised before being enacted by as wide a peer group as possible.

    I remember reading on Michelle’s TMoB discussion page that some of the subjects of the Femine Boys Project fell foul of The Law of Unintended Consequences. The project was only meant to ‘save boys in potential danger of developing Homosexuality’ but ended up making some of them Homophobic. They learnt to hate Homosexuality and Homosexuals even though they were not explicitly taught this.

    This by the way is a problem that affects Autistics no matter the intervention being used as long as supporters of that intervention promote inaccurate and alarming information as a tool for promoting the intervention alongside. The only reason why it’s mainly ABA that prompts me to think of this problem is the incredible way some ABA groups attack legitimate criticism the same way as chelationists and other bunkum treatment groups attack legitimate criticism.

    ABA is not quackery, so why do FEAT groups follow the example of Generation Rescue and DAN who promote quackery when it comes to promoting ABA?

  2. Jennifer February 22, 2007 at 17:34 #

    Lucas asked: “ABA is not quackery, so why do FEAT groups follow the example of Generation Rescue and DAN who promote quackery when it comes to promoting ABA?”

    I think the answer to that is quite complex. First, I think that the ringleaders of the FEAT movement are well aware that ABA is not as effective as they have sold it to be. The must know from their own experience that approximately 50% of children receiving 40 hours of ABA don’t become indistinuguishable. But:

    1. They don’t want to “discourage” parents of the newly diagnosed. You have to keep those potential supporters on side, so you must fib a bit about ABA.
    2. The only way to sell ABA to governments is to insist that it is a “cure” for autism. Afterall, the programs are VERY expensive. It wouldn’t be an easy sell if you simply said that “some children make good gains in ABA”, and then asked government to pony up $70K per year per child.
    3. Even though their own experience tells them ABA doesn’t live up to its billing, they cling to the hope that if ABA was just done “correctly” it would have been more effective. But this becomes a circular argument. Parents assume that ABA works. If it didn’t work, it must be bad ABA. Good ABA automatically works. One just needs to have more hours/better therapists/better supervisors etc. and it would work. (Just like chelation needs to be done for years on end to see it work (not)).

  3. Ian Parker February 25, 2007 at 07:05 #

    I’m a bit saddened by Jennifer’s comment above, but the reason is because overall I agree with her.

    My daughter is in an IBI program for 15 hours per week, and we find that it has been quite helpful and she is learning a lot. I’m not exactly thrilled by our provincial government, which will pay for 21 hours per week of IBI (and it has to be 21 hours – if you want 15 then you get 0), but rations this program through inadequate funding. If the government feels that ABA is worth the money then they should properly fund it. Period. Imagine the government stating a willingness to fund public education but only putting enough money in so that there was a two year waiting list for entrance into Grade 1.

    Having said that, I think that some of the more vocal ABA proponents have oversold the merits of ABA and the reasons for undertaking ABA therapy. I’ve said it elsewhere, that we do not do IBI to enable our daughter to ‘pass as normal’. We do it to enable her to learn certain skills that IBI is able to teach her. Selling the concept on the basis of ‘half will appear normal’ strikes me as the wrong goal.

    There are also things that we do not expect an ABA-type of program to teach, and we would not want to send her to 40 hours per week of ABA. Even our IBI program uses a variety of non-ABA methodologies, according to what it is they are teaching.

    What I would prefer is that those who need it to have access to 40 hours a week of one-on-one support, which could be used according to the child’s IEP. It seems ridiculous to me that my daughter may not get a full time EA when in school (which she will need, at least in the first couple of years), but could instead potentially secure funding for more hours of ABA than we would want. Rather than fight for 40 hours of ABA, why not fight for 40 hours of educational support, to be allocated according to individual need? That strikes me as a much more worthy goal.

  4. Ms. Clark February 25, 2007 at 09:39 #

    On the MIND Institute website you can download most of the presentations given by their “distinguished lecturers” All of the lecturers who gave their permission for their presentations to be broadcast are on there starting from a couple years ago. If you look at the presentations by Eric Courchesne, though, there’s only one of his two presentations available (all the others are there in pairs, because the speakers each give 2 talks). The presentation that is missing includes a statement from Courchesne (answering a question about ABA and its ability to rewire the brain or something like that). He said that Lovaas ABA has been “oversold” and there was this knowing laugh from about 10 to 15 of the researchers/academics in the audience.

    I think that is why the video is not available on the MIND’s website, though it could be for some other reason.

    “Oversold” is not the half of it, in my opinion.

    Behaviorism is outright mocked by at least one professor at UCD. It didn’t get good marks from most of the psych classes I took. It’s considered outdated, outmoded, if not silly for use in many situations in psychology (where it used to be the ONLY game in town), but it’s good enough for autistics and other disabled kids, and it works pretty good with animals, though there are some animal behaviors that defy the best “behaviorial analysis.”

    No of that is a scientific reason in itself for putting ABA in the trash, but ABA doesn’t recognize or exploit the best ways autistics learn, and I don’t see how they can get around that. There’s this view that whatever an autistic kid could teach himself is next to worthless (what forces result from spinning a plate?), and whatever a teacher could teach him (touch red, put yellow block on top of blue block) is worth gold Which doesn’t mean that no one should teach the child anything beyond what he is instinctively drawn to. But in a 20 or 40 hour week how much time is the child left to follow his interests?

    Einstein said that he learned about the nature of waves (in physics) from watching ripples on a pond, and that if he hadn’t been developmentally delayed he wouldn’t have been interested in watching the ripples on a pond for hour on hour, probably fairly often over a couple years if he was especially drawn to watching reflections on ponds.

    ABA can’t even account for that kind of learning and isn’t going to accomodate it or encourage it, it’s all internal with little or no “behavior” that they’d care to “reinforce,” bless their pea pickin’ little hearts.

  5. Ian Parker February 25, 2007 at 17:19 #

    Ms Clark wrote:

    “ABA can’t even account for that kind of learning and isn’t going to accomodate it or encourage it,”

    I would agree. I view ABA/IBI as being useful to teach certain types of tasks that can be broken down into discrete steps – e.g. tieing shoe laces – but I certainly would not expect anyone to use it to teach calculus or English literature.

    But as others have mentioned, even implicit learning can require considerable amounts time and thought to set up the right environment, and learning in a reciprocal environment requires someone at the other end to ‘reciprocate’ and/or to teach others how to do this. Unless autistic education is to be entirely in the hands of parents, some of that educational responsibility will belong to schools and/or other agencies that may not currently have the required resources, but do have the child under their watch for 30 to 40 hours per week.

    As such, to me it makes much more sense to advocate for 40 hours a week of ‘support’ – for those who need it – tailored to the child’s needs (and ’40’ is not carved in stone), rather than 40 hours specifically allocated to ABA. Maybe some of that time can be best utilized to take future Einsteins to the pond, the zoo, or to the local ‘Science Centre’. Our IBI program took some of the older kids skating – but as I said, they’re not wedded to just ABA as a teaching methodology. Some of that time/funding could be used to provide OT or SLP support.

    Regardless, the pool of independently wealthy volunteers willing to work with ASD kids for free is not unlimited. Given that those willing to perform this function presumably want to earn enough to be able to eat, their jobs need to be funded. Rather than lobby for 40 hours per week of ABA – or to oppose this – it makes more sense to me to try to co-opt this effort and reformulate it into 40 hours of allocable support.

  6. Old Soldier February 25, 2007 at 21:09 #

    The Autism Craze

    I find the current “popularity” of autism quite curious. Are sane people actually expected to believe all the propaganda surrounding this “new” disorder? I had degrees in both sociology (criminology) and behavioral psychology (child development) from good eastern universities before being drafted into the Army in 1967 for Vietnam and a subsequent three decade military career. I never worked directly in these fields again, but I also never lost my original interests. The main benefit was that, by serving mostly overseas in the US Army, I largely avoided the worst of the incessant brainwashing by our enormously powerful women’s lobby groups over the past half century.

    Let’s first dispel a popular misconception about autism. Many are confusing the term with what used to be termed “idiot savant”, which was a quite rare mentally retarded person who exhibits genius in a highly specialized area, such as mathematics or music, usually at a very early age. This is NOT autism. Based on the known factors associated with savants, it is possible that scientists will one day find a specific physiological cause of this disorder – and then craft a cure which hopefully does not negate the associated gifts. However, based on similar careful analysis, it is highly unlikely that such a cause will ever be truthfully found for autism. Autism is a condition that exhibits itself in disturbing human perceptions and relationships: a disturbance in psychological development in which use of language, reaction to stimuli, interpretation of the world, and the formation of social relationships are not fully established and follow unusual patterns. It is not found together with any special mental talents or gifts. Any attempt to associate these two disorders in the same group is essentially wishful thinking; savants have definite positive things to teach us; tragically, autistics do not.

    Autism is one of those disorders that is smack down the main alley in my former life. On Sunday, 18 February 2007, on “60 Minutes”, Leslie Stahl presented a good story about autism – very appropriately oriented around recent behavioral psychology studies at the University of California at Davis showing that symptoms of autism can be corrected through behavioral psychology (relearning), and the study’s female authors’ efforts to detect such symptoms as early as possible, much earlier than the current common ages of four to six or even later. (Autism, like all socially-learned psychological disorders, has degrees of severity. Beginning at birth, the longer the incorrect learning process, the more deeply entrenched becomes inappropriate or inadequate behavior, and the more difficult to teach appropriate or adequate behavior.)

    George Washington University anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker has recently published “Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism”, in which he argues that the apparent current explosion in autism numbers is simply the consequence of shifting definitions, policy changes and increased awareness among parents, educators and doctors, plus the ever-present financial incentive. I fully concur, but I am also now in a position in my life when I am finally free to go much further than Mr. Grinker is.

    A lot of Stahl’s story looked very familiar to me, but in a much more contemporary context than that in my memory. So I pulled out a few of my old textbooks – the ones that had somehow survived, mostly in storage, my subsequent half century odyssey. Sure enough, there they were. Amid all the other long “discredited” stuff were all those nicely disciplined studies about autism from the 1950s and 1960s. Many pretend today that such studies never existed, that autism is something brand new. That’s why the UC-Davis behavior psychology women don’t seem to know that they are re-inventing a very old wheel. Feminists from about 1965 to 1985 or so were mostly successful in discrediting almost everything that came before them in social sciences, most especially if it did not mesh neatly with their own predispositions, because everything previous to them was all a product of a “self-serving male-dominated” world.

    Women over the past half century were so successful in firmly establishing that principle in dogma, law and popular psychology that today one is fully justified in making similar claims about a “self-serving female-dominated” social science world (a world that, not surprisingly, includes “education”). Even though in the old days there were just as many women as men in most such fields, today women dominate with 90% majorities in ALL such fields — as a natural consequence of directions given by other women in high schools. (Women constitute 88% of our teachers.) Almost all of the “research” being conducted about autism is being conducted by white middle class women. As their rebelling mothers in the ’60s, with the full support of young male activists like myself, so loudly proclaimed with very solid logic and tremendous effect, “Such extreme gender superiority in a single field is prima face evidence of institutional sexist bigotry in that field.” Amen. Nowhere is it written that bigotry is limited to certain designated groups and impossible in others. On the contrary.

    As usual, everyone on camera in the Stahl story side-stepped the causes of autism, which at various times were labeled with a hint of physiology. Physiological causes are all the rage over the past couple of decades, as women seek to shift blame away from themselves and on to “physical” disorders, “gene” pre-disposition, “chemical” imbalances, etc., etc.. Men long have been largely sidelined from the “child-raising business”, so it’s now difficult to blame them. Feminists are now limited to screaming absurdly about men keeping them out of the physical sciences, i.e, demanding more quotas, while carefully avoiding making similar demands for parity quotas in the social sciences. By making the case for physiological causes of autism, one is also able to significantly reduce the stigma that has for centuries been appropriately associated with the parents of autistic children.

    Such blame-shifting excuses are, of course, pure nonsense – but fully expected when you have almost all women doing the “research”, and mere men have been relegated to the emasculated “yes, ma’am” bin. When I studied and worked in these fields, BOTH genders were equally interested solely in pure empirical science, i.e., highly controlled and mathematically provable scientific studies that were not afraid to clearly state and publish both their methods and their conclusions, let the chips fall where they may, so that everyone could move forward with the best solutions. The more internal and external skepticism, the better, since skepticism inevitably improved the science. Such honest scientific approaches are now, of course, extremely rare in the social science world. No one is allowed to challenge the results without fear of vicious counter-attack, reprisal and extremist labeling. What we have today is mostly emotional anecdotal or slanted junk that constitutes little more than slick self-serving propaganda, primarily designed to shift responsibility away from women or to further the marketing, financial and growth interests of the gene, drug or therapy industries. The effort today seems to be to start with a result you want, and then do the “research” that arrives where you want it to arrive.

    The fact that Leslie Stahl’s story was built around behavioral psychology was a very welcome toe in a long barricaded door. Yes, there was a mention in her story of “genes” – because it seems that autistic children may run in families (‘duh’), and that boys are FOUR TIMES more likely to be autistic than girls (another ‘duh’). But there was no mention in Stahl’s story of “wonder drugs”, etc., for which I was extremely thankful inasmuch as such drugs are designed solely to HIDE the disorder from apparent view, i.e, to make its symptoms less “embarrassing” to the parents. (This is the same approach taken with the “attention deficit disorder” (“ADD”) craze, which actually excuses teachers in addition to parents, by drugging naturally active and inquisitive children, mostly boys of course, into easily controlled zombies.)

    Hint: If behavioral psychology is being used at UC-Davis to correct symptoms of the autism disorder, than the symptoms MUST be behavioral psychological disorders (NOT physiological) – which is precisely what was firmly established a half century ago. If there are no symptoms of autism, then autism does not exist, i.e., any previously existing autism has been cured (or corrected). This is what behavioral psychology does. Behavioral disorders are LEARNED disorders, or the failure to learn “socially acceptable” behavior. Who teaches such behavior? Who doesn’t teach proper behavior? Parents. During the first few most formative years of human life. About 85% of that teaching is done by mothers, the rest by fathers. (Considerable supplementary “teaching” is also done by older siblings, if any are in the child’s environment, but this requires close supervision by parents to ensure things are proceeding in an acceptably appropriate manner.) An infant is born with a mostly “un-wired” brain. That brain has to learn how to make the correct connections, learn the “right” language”, the “right” behavior, the “right” culture, the “right” responses, etc., through extremely repetitive actions. This is a steady process that continues from the moment of birth (and even earlier) through about age seven. If the brain is learning the wrong connections or not learning any connections, it needs to do some real hard catching up through expert teaching, through expert behavioral psychology. It’s a severe form of remedial learning (or training, teaching).

    Most of the examples shown on the Stahl story are contained in very good English in my text books from the 1950s and 1960s (as well as in my memory). But my text books went MUCH further. They showed that most such kids were not in the general community in those days, nor were they in state institutions. (Thus good statistics on overall incidence were difficult, but not impossible, to assemble.) Almost all of the kids were found in orphanages run by charities, and almost all had come into the charities WITH the disorder, usually around ages five to seven. (This is very different from the case of many tens of thousands of autistic children found during the 1990s in East European state orphanages after the fall of Soviet communism; most of the neglect in their case was probably done by inadequately trained, staffed and funded state orphanages after the huge flood of very young kids and infants arrived.)

    In my old text books, the causes of autism had long been very solidly established. Most studies in the ’50s and ’60s on causes ended up confirming what had been generally known throughout western culture for centuries. The causes were due solely to improper parenting, or to no parenting at all. The child’s brain had not developed properly due to inadequate teaching, inadequate human intercourse, inadequate stimulation, inadequate reinforcement, etc., etc. (You could substitute for “inadequate” the words “improper” or “absent”.) Far and away the most frequent common factor was a deceased or absent mother, and a father spending all his time trying to earn food and roof. Until well into the previous century most siblings over the early teen years were out trying to supplement the father’s meager income. The baby was left in a crib and checked on from time to time, often by a neighbor, rarely by a qualified full time baby sitter. Thus evolved autistic children; they were essentially left-alone infants. There were a few cases of a mother who had rejected her child (for a variety of her own psychological reasons), and was then given the label “cold” or “refrigerator”, but these were quite the minority.

    Regardless of the social behavioral causes of autism, the challenge for everyone in those days (’50s and ’60s) was to correct the damage, i.e., to correct (or “cure”) the autism disorder. The approach that was far and away the most successful was through proven techniques of behavioral psychology in child development. The drawback of this approach is that it is VERY personnel intensive, and probably not best performed in a clinical environment if the child is below age four. The child requires near constant expert attention, mothering and teaching, for quite long periods, in as “normal” a social environment as possible. It works best if the expert exudes a mother’s natural unhesitating warmth and love. Such extensive, extended and intensive treatment has now become very expensive in our society, and extremely difficult, if not impossible, to clinically duplicate. It would therefore seem that the best approach for very young autistic children is removal from the home as early as possible and placement with a family that can devote the proper constant care and attention to the child, after some training.

    This has been the approach taken by East European orphanages as much as is possible. In fact, thousands of these very young autistic kids have been adopted by American families. There is some evidence that the approach can be quite successful if the child is not too old. I am not expert on the older aspect of autism, but I would extrapolate that an autistic child over the age of six would probably require institutional care for a very long period in order, not to reach a cure, but to enable the person to function well enough on an elementary level in the larger society. I doubt that such a child would benefit from a normal home environment without constant professional help. Too much damage has been done by age six to ever expect that it can be corrected completely. (Thus the “need” for a drug to hide the symptoms.)

    The earlier that the symptoms are recognized for what they are, the more likely that the disorder can be corrected with proper professional human treatment. Thus, the UC-Davis efforts to detect symptoms as early as possible, even down below age 18 months, is entirely correct – and mirrors what was being attempted in the 1950s and ’60s. The major problem here is that one needs to be able to “invade” the home to detect such symptoms and their causes, since those contributing to the symptoms are unlikely to be concerned about them, until it’s too late.

    So, with autism,

    >”Drugs” can only hide the symptoms; they cannot “cure” the disorder. This is a socially-learned psychological disorder. Thus, behavioral psychology probably can render the most and best help.

    >”Genes” is extremely less likely a cause than the simple fact that siblings with the disorder have a common mother (or common single father), and that children very often later mimic the treatment they received from their own parents.

    >”Siblings” play almost no role anymore, since most white middle class mothers (the group reporting the exploding incidence) today have only one child – about half of what is required to sustain the group. (The actual birth rate for white women is 1.2; the required rate is 2.2. This means, of course, that American Caucasians of European extraction, plus their autistic children, will have all but disappeared before the end of this century anyway. It also explains why we need truly massive immigration in order to sustain the viability of our society.)

    >The fact that boys are diagnosed with autism at a rate more than four times greater than for girls is due solely to sexist bigotry – women who firmly believe that only girls need help, that boys “can damned well take care of themselves” (a conviction among very many American women that holds all the way through life), or who have a conscious or subconscious deep-seated hated of males (which has become far more common in our society than anyone will ever admit) and are therefore intent on creating “men” in their own image, any way they can.

    >”Refrigerator” moms (as the former popular culture labeled them) is no longer nearly as simple and straightforward as it once was. —

    This old term assumed that a mother was present, but purposefully avoided her child due to something amiss in her psychological make-up. It was a rare occurrence. Very many kids today have only one parent, usually a woman, much less often a father. All mothers and fathers know what image they are SUPPOSED to project outside the home, most especially on camera, and most do so extremely well. But this public image, as we all know only so well, is very rarely the truth. Just like fathers, mothers have jobs, have outside interests, they drink, take drugs, engage in a wide range of extracurricular activities, etc., — all of which naturally robs their kids of essential, critical, time and attention. Even in homes that have a “stay-at-home” mother, there is one huge culprit ever lurking, and this gives rise to my own pet theory: Mom straps the infant down in front of a TV showing cartoons, while she goes off to watch soap operas on another TV (or goes on-line to find solace in “support groups”), for hours and hours and hours, year after year.

    The causes for autism lie in the parents, and most especially in the mother. Period. This has been the case since Adam and Eve. If there IS an actual explosion in this disorder, the guilty party cannot possibly escape responsibility in a truthful world. (But, of course, we rarely deal in actual truth anymore.)

    Real mothers — full time mothers who are not sexist bigots, who truly love their kids — play, as they always have, the most critically important role in any society. Mothers who don’t meet that minimum description do far more damage to a society than anything else. It’s just that simple.

    One can only hope that when we finally elect a woman to be the nation’s Commander-in-Chief we will also finally be able to start holding this oppressive dictatorship of the extremist self-serving feminist mafia in the social sciences to long delayed accountability. American women are the most pampered, most protected, most promoted, most privileged and most powerful group to ever walk on Earth, and the only things they seem to be able to do better than any other group is whine and blame-shift. Hopefully, this shame will come to an end shortly after a woman assumes to Hot Seat on the Firing Line – and the demands will start coming hot and heavy from that other minority, men (if there are any left by then).

    Quotas? You wanna talk about quotas?

    The best intentions in the world don’t count for squat; it’s only the RESULTS of your efforts that count.

  7. Lucas McCarty February 25, 2007 at 23:29 #

    Old Solider, apart from the sexist rant I’m still none the wiser as to what your intended contribution here was. You seem to have written at great length regardless of the topic but I’m afraid there’s something I definately feel I need to challenge you on:

    “Any attempt to associate these two disorders in the same group is essentially wishful thinking; savants have definite positive things to teach us; tragically, autistics do not. ”

    Assuming you didn’t simply type ‘Autism’ into Google and copy/paste your post into the first available comment field you came across, you must have been aware that this is a Neurdo-diverse site. Do you have any reason to believe that Autistics have nothing to teach you? I’m afraid it’s you here that didn’t really have anything to teach us.

  8. Ms. Clark February 26, 2007 at 03:15 #

    Hey, Old Soldier, maybe you could join the *Evidence of Harm* Yahoo! group and try to convince them over there, They continually discuss the cause of autism, you’ll meet Lenny, he’s the anti-feminist (anti-female?) moderator. Lenny’s been involved in father’s rights movements and is seems to be pretty big on feminism bashing. You can do a web search on “Lenny Schafer feminism” to confirm that.

    He signed the “father’s manifesto”.

    This one is cute:

    Lenny Schafer
    View profile
    More options Apr 1 1995, 4:00 am
    Newsgroups: rec.humor, alt.feminism, alt.child-support, alt.support, alt.support.divorce, alt.feminazis, soc.women, soc.men, alt.fan.rush-limbaugh
    Followup-To: …
    From: scha…@netcom.com (Lenny Schafer)
    Date: 1995/04/01
    Subject: Re: 21/27 articles by men

    rbres…@freenet.vcu.edu wrote:

    : I am new to newsgroups and found it odd that 21 of the 27
    : articles (where name seemed to denote gender) were written by
    : men; in the women.soc newsgroup.

    Welcome to the Patriarchy! Here’s your cloth and bottle of Windex. Over
    there is your glass ceiling. Please restrict all whining to break periods.:)

    Love, lenny
    Male Bullies Association

    Abolish sigs.

    He’s so cute. Even back in 1995 he was cute.

  9. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) February 26, 2007 at 05:28 #

    “The best *intentions* in the world don’t count for squat; it’s only the RESULTS of your efforts that count.”

    So that’s Dr Kerry well and truly fucked, then. He killed a kid. He may well have *intended* to make the boy ‘normal’, but according to the above philosophy, that’s got bugger all to do with it: the RESULT was that a boy is dead who should not be dead.

    However, Old Soldier, your lack of adequate understanding of how behaviour happens is clear from the fact that you attempt to divorce physiological influences on behaviour from behaviour itself in your account of autism.

    To whit: “The causes for autism lie in the parents, and most especially in the mother. Period.”

    Evidently you are not aware of a number of studies in which psychoanalytic explanations (by virtue of the lack of efficacy in their application in the cases of autistic children) have been left out with the rest of the garbage (see, for example, Volkmar, F. D., 2000; ‘Understanding Autism: Implications for Psychoanalysis’, in Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 20:660-674, where it is found that: ‘although early psychoanalytic interest in autism centered around the notion that experience might play a role in pathogenesis a large body of data suggest this is not the case; rather the condition appears to be the result of genetic and other neurobiological factors.’)

    This is not to say that experience and emotional responses to it do not influence behaviour… of course they do; but they cannot be candidates as the sole causes of something as complicated as being autistic.

    And here: “Behavioral disorders are LEARNED disorders, or the failure to learn “socially acceptable” behavior. Who teaches such behavior? Who doesn’t teach proper behavior? Parents. During the first few most formative years of human life. About 85% of that teaching is done by mothers, the rest by fathers.”

    If this were so, how come all children in families where a child is autistic aren’t themselves autistic?

    I think it’s time you cashed in your degrees for something more useful. Like toilet paper. At least then, when you deposit this sort of obsolete shite on the web, you can wipe your aged little botty and crawl off back to bed.

    Your degrees mean nothing unless you have kept your knowledge up to speed with current developments, and you basically have failed to do that.

    Your loss.

    And your own fault.

    Or do you want to blame your parents for the piss poor learner that you obviously are?

  10. Old Soldier February 26, 2007 at 18:12 #

    Your responses are all as I had predicted, and, if you look closely and read carefully without emotion, predicted even within the body of what I wrote. Many of your comments are even full of the same very old feminist clichés. Thank you for proving a valuable point.

    I’ll try not to stoop to your level, with juvenile labels, names, profanity, etc., so try this, in a considerably less disputable area — from Michelle Easton, writing on “Designed to teach girls, our schools promote failure for boys,” Feb. 13 in the Chicago Sun-Times.

    “Women today are outpacing men in college degrees, earning 57 percent of all [bachelor’s degrees] and 58 percent of all master’s degrees today. If the trend continues, demographers predict there will be 156 women earning degrees for every 100 men by 2020…

    Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson describe the view of school from the perspective of a little boy: “Grade school is largely a feminine environment populated predominantly by women teachers and authority figures that seems rigged against boys, against the higher activity level and lower level of impulse control that is normal for boys… In this setting a boy’s experience of school is as a thorn among roses: He is a different, lesser and sometimes frowned-upon presence, and he knows it.”

    “We’ve tried to force this [learning] model that works so well for girls onto boys,’ says Mortenson. ‘And we’re paying a very steep price.”


    I know that this will undoubtedly place me in the “ancient history” category, but the truth is that I was actually very heavily involved with both the black and women’s rights movements during the 1960s – a “flaming liberal”, as they say today. So it was with my full support when feminists, noting girls lagging slightly behind boys in the 1960s, during the 1970s demanded parity in schools, and succeeded in a getting a wide range of major changes in our schools that helped them do that. Rough parity was reached around 1980. But the changes by then had become institutionalized and continued to march, even though women moved further ahead of men in every single year over the next quarter of a century.

    Note that the figures above are lower than actuality, due mainly to the fact that the country’s top 85 liberal arts colleges and universities are all private schools that cater primarily if not exclusively to women, and their figures often get lost in the shuffle. Women get a huge leg up on scholarships to college from “Advanced Placement Programs” in high school, that are heavily loaded with liberal arts courses and have girl student majorities of from about 5-to-1 well up past 20-to-1.

    The current (Bush appointee) Secretary of Education, a woman with two daughters, has admitted such gross gender disparities in public, stated that predictive models show a continuously growing gender disparity in higher education well into the future – and proposed absolutely nothing to correct it. It’s a lot like the grossly under-productive birth rate among white American women – that will have Caucasians literally disappearing from the population well before the end of this century – No one wants to talk about it. “Only tell ’em what they want to hear.” Etc. And, of course, women all assume that males are responsible, for everything.

    It will be statistically impossible for at least half of our college-educated women to find equally educated mates. This is ALREADY nearly the situation today. I just hope our daughters are prepared for the enormous burden that the future already holds for them. Not only will they be the principle bread-winner in the family, supporting a much less educated husband and any child, but also paying the lion’s share of taxes to support our society. How much time will they have to raise their children, or will that responsibility shift solely to the father? Next up: A women’s Draft, so they can defend THEIR system? How will they regard their head-in-the-sand parents for THAT?

    In the social sciences, women dominate with at least 90% majorities in every single field having anything to do with “raising” children, including boys, including YOU, from before birth to after college. And over 88% of our school teachers are women. And yet no one wants to admit that such huge gender majorities don’t automatically contribute to, even promote, the same bias and bigotry that women accuse of “male-dominated” fields. Really amazing how it’s possible to be so self-servingly selective with your “social laws”….

    We are ALL the product of our “educations”. Who were YOUR “teachers”?

    And just who are you parroting? Is your thinking REALLY sound? Is it really independent?

    How often do we change definitions, including for “autism”, before we finally get to a “reality” that suits our well-prepared predispositions and agrees with “our” motivations?

    Is anyone really responsible anymore?

    Just askin’. Old Soldier

  11. Friend in California February 26, 2007 at 19:11 #

    Old Soldier –
    The fallacies in your “stream of consciousness” are simply too many to address one-by-one.
    You began by stating that autism is a socially-learned condition (which is so unbelieveably wrong that it is difficult to come up with even a starting point at which to engage this argument) that autistic people have “nothing to teach us” (which is equally as wrong as the first point, but on so many more levels), and have managed to transform the issue, now that you have someone’s attention into an anti-feminist rant (on which topic you, again, are just so incredibly wrong it is difficult to believe).
    Because you have taken the intellectually lazy position of filtering any opposing point of view through the lens of “The very fact that you disagree with me proves that I am right”, I suspect that it will prove impossible for you to engage in real debate that may allow you some new perspective on any issues of the issues you have brought up.
    So, instead of debating, I simply ask that you stop insulting my child, my friends, and virtually anyone else exposed to your particular brand of prejudice and just … go … away.

  12. Kev February 26, 2007 at 19:42 #

    Bravo FiC. Old Soldier – your presence here is neither appreciated, nor welcome. Please make yourself scarce.

    That’s not a request by the way.

  13. anonimouse February 26, 2007 at 22:54 #

    Old Solider.

    Cool, so you’re a racist, a bigot, a sexist pig and completely uneducated about autism or the science surrounding it.

    I know a REALLY good blog you should visit that is far more your speed. In fact, I’d say that a certain “John” will tell you it’s the “Best” blog for ludicrous autism discussion ever. You can tell him autism is all about the mothers, and he can tell you about his golf game and his poisoned kid.

    Have fun, jerk.

  14. Another Autism Mom February 26, 2007 at 23:42 #

    Ms. Clark, thanks for sharing Lenny’s wingnut profile. It’s good to know what those people are about.

  15. anonimouse February 27, 2007 at 04:40 #

    As an aside – some of Schafer’s other newgroup posts are downright disturbing. Yet people considering him some kind of a “trusted voice” when it comes to autism?

    Yeah, ok.

  16. Ms. Clark February 27, 2007 at 04:59 #

    There are some WEIRD bits of Lenny’s background that don’t quite add up. Obviously he was major miffed about a divorce sometime in the early to mid 1990’s. He was married to a Doctor of Ostepathy or maybe she was a naturopath, anyway, it seems that she was against vaccination because one of his daughter’s he says has never been vaccinated. He shared his daughter’s photo and a little about her because she was in the newspaper where she lives in New Mexico or Arizona. Somewhere I’ve heard he has another older daughter, and then he and his wife had adopted Izak and a girl. The girl went to live with Lenny’s ex, apparently. Lenny never mentions her.

    Lenny apparently was in line to adopt Izak before he was born from the sound of Lenny’s description. That they had vaccinated Izak at the hospital before Lenny and wife could stop it from happening, or something. It’s in a post to EoHarm.

    The way the details of Lenny’s past add up is strange. It looks like maybe he was married (or in a relationship) twice, with two daughters from the first relationship, then he married the doctor and adopted 2 kids and they split up some time after the boy was dx’d as autistic.

    So far I haven’t figured out why Izak looks like he’s related to Lenny.

  17. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) February 27, 2007 at 05:50 #

    Lt-Col Bigotface: “We are ALL the product of our ‘educations'”

    Wrong. We’re the product of what we do with our educations. Use it well, what we do is much more than the sum of what we learned. Hence, an MEd awarded with Distinction comes to people who really know what they’re doing.

    Lt-Col Bigotface: “Who were YOUR ‘teachers’?”

    Judith Conway BEd, MA
    Margaret Avery BEd, BSc, PhD
    Timo Järvilehto BA, MClinPsych, PhD
    Glenys Jones BEd, MA, MEd, PhD
    Rita Jordan BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
    … and just about everyone I interact with (to some degree or other) teaches me something.

    Lt-Col Bigotface: “And just who are you parroting?”

    MEd doesn’t come with Distinction unless you definitely are *not* parrotting someone.

    Lt-Col Bigotface: “Is your thinking REALLY sound?”

    MEd comes with Distinction if, and only if, you really *are* a sound thinker.

    Lt-Col Bigotface: “Is it really independent?”

    MEd awarded with Distinction says it is.

    Who do you parrot?

  18. Lucas McCarty February 27, 2007 at 23:30 #

    Bettelhiem, with added cookoo.

  19. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) February 28, 2007 at 02:11 #

    Nice one, Lucas 😉

  20. anonimouse February 28, 2007 at 19:00 #

    So far I haven’t figured out why Izak looks like he’s related to Lenny.

    Perhaps Lenny doesn’t want to admit that he too might, you know, have “it”.

  21. Barbara J March 5, 2007 at 20:07 #

    Thank you all for this wonderful discussion, and especially Michelle for drawing my attention to things I hadn’t read.
    I’m at the point in my PhD Literature Review where I’m dealing with interventions, and how good/bad they are. Apart from the couple of (ahem) people with problematic agendas on here, this has been really useful.
    Michelle, I’ve already quoted twice the research you did into the BDT – it was so clear and so useful in the section I did on EF.
    If anyone who has anything to add to research literature I may not have seen, Camille has my email addy.
    Thank you again.

  22. Ballastexistenz March 5, 2007 at 20:12 #

    Anyone who claims that nobody anymore could possibly believe the Bettelheimian theories of autism should be forced to sit through Old Soldier’s rant.

  23. jypsy March 5, 2007 at 22:21 #

    “This means he holds the vaccine/autism bull in as much disdain as I do.”

    Actually Kev, he’s rethinking that one too

  24. Ms. Clark March 6, 2007 at 00:56 #

    Not very many people have Camille’s email addy though…

    if you want to contact Barbara J, you can by requesting it through autismdiva at gmail dotcom, for the time being. autismdiva doesn’t answer much email from strangers, mostly just comments to her blog.

  25. jypsy March 19, 2007 at 18:17 #

    It appears he’s called in reinforcements for his arms…… more strawmen…..

  26. jypsy March 19, 2007 at 18:19 #

    It appears he’s called in reinforcements for his arms…… more strawmen…..

  27. jypsy March 19, 2007 at 18:20 #


  28. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) March 19, 2007 at 23:06 #

    Best thing to do, jypsy… ignore him. He wants attention so if we ignore him… he’ll go piss other people off….

  29. sun March 30, 2007 at 20:23 #

    This site gives information relating to the natural health education. This below link also gives details about the health and education with massages of the health, advocate for improved health and education of their autistic children and are accused of violating the human rights of all persons with autism by doing so. One hurtful urban myth gives way to another.
    natural health education


  1. Left Brain/Right Brain » Harold L Doherty - at it again - February 26, 2007

    […] Harold Doherty last week built himself an army of strawmen in order to demoinse the neurodiversity movement. I and many people left comments that were never published so I wrote the above linked post to demonstrate to Mr Doherty how illogical, ill-thought out and just plain old wrong his points were. He never responded but it seems Mr Doherty is never one to let a little thing like accuracy cloud his opinions. […]

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