Tony Humphreys digs a deeper hole

25 Feb

There’s an old saying: the first step to getting out of the hole you dug is to stop digging. Tony Humphreys could do well to take that advice.

On February 6th, Tony Humphreys published an article in the Irish Examiner. The article can be found here on facebook. Here is an excerpt:

In studies in 1997 and 2001 it was found that the children and grandchildren of engineers were more likely to be autistic and that mathematicians had higher rates of autism than other professions. What is shocking is that Dr Baron-Cohen and the team of researchers are one: assuming that autism is a scientific fact and, two: missing 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.

After all, the deepest need of every child is to be unconditionally loved and the absence of it results in children shutting down emotionally themselves because to continue to spontaneously reach out for love would be far too painful.

Children’s well being mostly depends on emotional security – a daily diet of nurture, love, affection, patience, warmth, tenderness, kindness and calm responses to their expressed welfare and emergency feelings. 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.

I’d be interested to hear how people interpret that. I know how Liz Ditz reacted (the title gives you some idea): Why What a Gormless Irish Self-Help Guru Wrote About Autism Matters.

Tony Humphreys is back in the news. This time in an interview on TV3 and an article in The Journal, “Autism is a theory” – Tony Humphreys defends controversial article

From The Journal:

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.

Well, being called out for making insulting and unfounded remarks is probably not what he expected. Then again, a person who makes these remarks probably isn’t well qualified to predict how they will be received.

Why is this man given publicity (even bad publicity)? Here’s another paragraph from The Journal:

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”.

Does he not understand why parents are annoyed with him or is he just trying to deflect the flack he is getting. Parents aren’t annoyed that he made ignorant statements that “there is no such thing as autism”. Had he just said that he would have been quickly forgotten as an ignorant man making ignorant statements. Happens a lot. No, parents are annoyed (or at least I am) by statements like “missing 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.”

Tony Humphreys exposed himself as being completely ignorant about autism on many fronts. He bills himself as a ” consultant clinical psychologist, author and national and international speaker”.

He’s not-apologized. He’s damaged his own reputation by exposing himself as ignorant in the area he claims as expertise. I hope the Irish press does the right thing and just ignores him from here on out.

25 Responses to “Tony Humphreys digs a deeper hole”

  1. Aspel February 25, 2012 at 10:24 #

    Lizditz provides an excellent collection of Tony Humphreys writings going back over fifteen years, all blaming parents (and most blaming mothers) for “labels” caused by emotional neglect, abuse and sexual abuse. He caused uproar by saying mums caused schizophrenia. His own childhood, described on his Wikipedia page should probably disqualify him from being a psychologist. But sadly he is a psychologist who treats and claims to “cure” autistic kids.

    • Robert Humphreys July 18, 2012 at 22:28 #

      What does Tony Humphreys know about how to raise children or how parents should rare their children…NOTHING…he has no children and it was a decision he and his wife made when they married not to raise children…He has no qualifications and does not even recognise his own families children and does not even know their names….He also wrote and spoke untruths about my parents..I personally have made sure he will not ever mention my parents again…as if he does he will answer to me personally…..Robert Humphreys

  2. Jack February 25, 2012 at 10:59 #

    What is so shocking (apart from the generalised criticism of parents) is that I have only just passed on your article about the White Matter Fibre Tracts! It beggars belief that the Examiner will give this arse any coverage at all. He’s allegedly a clinical psychologist, right? And yet he displays no forethought regarding how his comments would be received. What a nutbar.

  3. Jack February 25, 2012 at 11:16 #

    At least the Irish government don’t support him:

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

    But that’s small consolation of course. Why do such people talk with such absolute authority on matters they clearly do not understand, and on a research situation that they do not comprehend.

    He’s an attention grabber nothing less. Should try thinking before speaking and learning to apologise properly. Arse.

    • Robert Humphreys July 18, 2012 at 22:30 #

      Contact me re Tony Humphreys and I will give you any details you want…he is a fraud…Robert Humphreys

  4. farmwifetwo February 25, 2012 at 13:29 #

    Our first Dev Ped said that in his practise 50% of parents had one parent that was an engineer… Waves… that would be me in this house.

    Which means NOTHING b/c I can tell you that my engineering class was 25% female, them boys… well, their weren’t very many Sheldon’s (TBBT) in our program. It’s like all things a stereotype perpetrated by tv and people like him.

    There’s too much research that claims it isn’t the “Mother’s” but we do make a lovely “whipping boy” when science decides it needs someone to blame. Or with the fact we can’t let our kids out to play but it’s our fault if they put on weight…. but that’s another soapbox for another day….

  5. Jack February 25, 2012 at 19:40 #

    Was has really abhorred me today, is hearing from engineers and others elsewhere, that similar experiences have happened to them with psychologists who have sought to diagnose their children based on this ‘assumption’ alone. Where does this come from? Who ever thought this ‘connection’ up in the first place? It sounds positively Jurassic.

  6. Liz Ditz February 25, 2012 at 20:04 #

    Jack, the engineers and assortive mating idea were popularized by an article Steve Silberman wrote a number of years ago, Geek Syndome..

    Silberman’s a good guy with a sound understanding of autism. He’s writing a book on neurodiversity which is scheduled for 2013.

  7. Anne February 25, 2012 at 23:09 #

    There was a recent paper – maybe Sully already reported on it – Campbell & Wang, Familial Linkage between Neuropsychiatric Disorders and Intellectual Interests

    In this one, Princeton’s incoming class of 2014 was surveyed as to intended major and family members with certain disorders including ASD. One of the conclusions was that students in technical majors (math, physics, engineering) had a higher incidence of ASD in their families, whereas students in the humanities had a higher incidence of affective disorders in their families.

  8. sharon February 25, 2012 at 23:44 #

    What astounds me is that he claims surprise at parent’s reaction to his statements. He said he thought he was sharing “good news”. I infer from that he means if we would just love our kids right the autism (which apparently is just a theory anyway) will go away.

    The guy is a complete ignoramus.

  9. Aspel February 25, 2012 at 23:47 #

    The text of the interview (I can’t follow spoken dialogue easily) is here:

    It is amazing what bollocks this man – – talks. Every time the woman presenter asks him about the relationship between parenting and autism, he just diverts into an explanation that he never said blame, or never said cause, or does not believe in autism. It is him that put mother (or parenting) in the same sentences as autism, which can only be taken as stating that one causes the other. The original article is

    He did a radio interview a week after that article, also in text at where he talks yet more bollocks about mothers and autism.

    On the 17th of February he gave a statement saying “There was no intention on my part to hurt anybody. On the contrary what I wanted was to provide hope and to be involved in discovering the solutions to what now appear to be non-biological problems. I need to reiterate that in my thirty years of practice I never found any parent or teacher or other who coldly or intentionally hurt a child.” – he has the solutions! and hope! we are going to be cured! by Dr Tony Humphreys, Clinical Psychologist!

    Nothing beats “Autism is a Theory”!

  10. sharon February 26, 2012 at 00:00 #

    @Aspel, thanks for the wiki link. I’d not taken the time previously to look into his background. I wish I’d come across if when writing my own blogpost on the topic some weeks back.

  11. Sharon McDaid February 26, 2012 at 16:18 #

    @Sharon, I think that wiki was probably edited quite recently. These revelations about Tony Humphreys only emerged after he made his ridiculous comments about autism. I certainly had never noticed him before in the Irish media.

    After I’d blogged about his autism article I searched the Irish Examiner archives and found his other parent blaming articles. His own website contains more of his damning and disturbingly extreme opinions.

  12. sharon February 27, 2012 at 08:37 #

    @SharonMcDaid yes I’m certain the latter bits are very recent. Not so sure about the childhood bio stuff but it was very informative, if true.

  13. Jack February 27, 2012 at 10:19 #

    Morning Liz,

    Thanks for the ‘Geek syndrome’ link above. Couldn’t help but notice this in today’s Guardian:

    ‘In 2001, the technology magazine Wired coined the phrase “geek syndrome” to describe the threefold increase in autism diagnoses in California’s Silicon Valley over the space of a decade.’

    ‘The relationship between computers and autism is undisputed – and double-edged. Many autism experts agree with Temple Grandin, an author and professor at Colorado State University, herself autistic, who believes that without “the gifts of autism” there would probably be no Nasa or IT industry. Yet the high-profile cases of Gary McKinnon and Ryan Cleary, both of whom have Asperger’s syndrome, are just two examples of how that relationship can go wrong.’

  14. Jack February 27, 2012 at 10:21 #

    ‘More than a decade later Cambridge University’s Autism Research Centre is now running a study investigating the previously established link between parents working in hi-tech, scientific and mathematical industries and an increased incidence of children on the autism spectrum.’

  15. Aspel February 27, 2012 at 13:57 #

    @Sharon and Sharon McDaid – I followed the article links, and they are all to articles written by or interviewing Humphreys, so I think they must be as true as anything else he says:

    1. “Humphreys’s gift is personal empathy. As a child, he was constantly and unfavourably compared with his twin brother, so when his mother became an invalid, and was confined to a wheelchair, he moved into the role of carer to win approval.
    At the age of 18, he entered a monastery to study for the priesthood and remained there for seven years. But with just one month to go before ordination, he decided to leave: the priestly vocation had also been an exercise to win the approval of his devoutly religious parents. The experience of leaving was both liberating and traumatic.
    ‘In the Ireland of those days, you just didn’t leave the priesthood. It was every parent’s dream. But I wasn’t living my own life. When I got home, nobody would speak to me, so I left after a week and went to Dublin.’ He put himself through college at night, eventually obtaining his PhD in clinical psychology from Birmingham University.”
    It’s good for the soul to feel bad about yourself,

    2. “There is life after the Leaving Cert, writes Brian Mooney. Pat Kenny still has nightmares about it from time to time. Psychologist Dr Tony Humphreys never experienced it, having left school at 15.”
    Support and encourage is the message for parents,

    3. “I WAS reared and educated in a Catholic home and school and entered a Catholic monastery at age 18 and spent seven years there before leaving a couple of months prior to ordination. By the time I left, I had lost all belief in Catholicism. This is not to say I didn’t have profound spiritual experiences but these occurred as a result of my own spiritual searchings and not from the practice of Catholicism.
    During my monastic sojourn, I encountered no priest or monk who convinced me of our spiritual, as well as our amazing human, nature. Life was difficult in the immediate years following my departure from the monastery and Catholicism, and emotional, social, educational and career issues become paramount.”
    Heaven within: I abandoned religion when I left the monastery at age 25. My spiritual quest is personal and internal, Examiner Feelgood 22 July 2011 (available at

    One of the Examiner’s nopologies contained further biographical information:
    “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.”
    Humphreys history,

    • Sullivan February 27, 2012 at 15:01 #

      “Humphreys’s gift is personal empathy”

      Makes you wonder how bad he is in areas that are not his “gift”.

  16. Julian Frost February 28, 2012 at 06:35 #

    Sullivan, LOL!

  17. sharon February 28, 2012 at 23:25 #


  18. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. March 3, 2012 at 02:52 #

    Sharon: “The guy is a complete ignoramus.”

    Is that long for ‘arse’?

  19. Julian Frost March 4, 2012 at 19:55 #

    @David N. Andrews: a newspaper once asked its readership to take words, change one letter and devise a whole new word. The word most appropriate to this discussion was “ignoranus”, for someone who is both ill-informed and an arsehole.

  20. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. March 6, 2012 at 03:04 #

    @JF: nice one 🙂 i love that!!!!


  1. Autism Blog – Tony Humphreys digs a deeper hole « Left Brain/Right … | My Autism Site | All About Autism - February 25, 2012

    […] Excerpt from: Autism Blog – Tony Humphreys digs a deeper hole « Left Brain/Right … […]

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