We can all agree that autism remains a pretty contentious subject. But at least nobody is claiming the condition is a result of bad parenting. Apparently in the 1940s, that was an actual theory. In their book published this month, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker take a long, hard (disturbing) look at the history of autism. The authors recently sat down with NPR's Robert Siegel, host of All Things Considered, in order to discuss the book. The whole interview is fascinating, but we were particularly shocked by the revelation that psychiatrists used to blame autistic behavior on bad parenting:
"It was called the refrigerator mother theory, and the idea was that children were somehow insulted — psychologically insulted — by their mothers, who, for some reason, signaled that they didn't love their children enough. And, as a defense mechanism, the children were said to have withdrawn into their own world. So this was a very, very poisonous idea."
Want to know more? Make sure to read the whole interview over on NPR.