During the mid-twentieth century, it may have seemed that Americans lived in a modern, civilized society. It may have seemed that the nation was learning about tolerance, acceptance and equal rights. However, using the term “refrigerator mother,” was considered acceptable when describing the parent of a child with autism.
In his book, Teaching Individuals with Developmental Delays, author O. Ivar Lovaas notes, “The number of proposed causes was limitless because professionals found it easy to be inventive, considering their ignorance of the etiology of behavioral delays. These delays already tend to be amplified by the parents’ guilt and anxiety over the possibility of having contributed to the problem (a characteristic of most parents regardless of the child’s problem).”
Lovaas cites several examples. “A professional may have proposed the trip to Paris taken when the child was 2 years old caused a traumatic separation from the security of the home environment, hence the autism. Or, after the parents admitted to anxiety about not being “good enough,” the parents’ compulsive need to be perfect may have been proposed as the cause of the problem. Other possibilities included claiming that the mother’s returning to work too soon after the child’s birth prevented “bonding” from taking place, or that the birth of another child too soon after the birth of the first child caused the behavior problems. Through this misattributed blame, it was not uncommon for a professional to imply that the child wanted nothing to do with his or her parents and therefore withdrew into an ‘autistic shell.’”
Read more here: NorthJersey.com: Don’t blame Mom.
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