Daily Archives: November 10, 2006

Psychodynamic “acceptance”


I’ve been sick today, so mostly resting or reading in bed and on the toilet etc. I’m rereading Let Me Hear Your Voice, masochistically enough.

I found an interesting point towards the end, that shows the context in which a lot of people could misinterpret the idea of accepting an autistic person as autistic (and not just those considering themselves opposed to acceptance for that matter). The author — who believes in “recovering” children through Lovaas-style ABA combined with other stuff — points out some similarities in many of the psychodynamic ideas about autistic people.

Basically, a lot of them — regardless of what they think the innate cause of autism is — consider that there is a non-autistic child inside the autistic child, and that child needs to be shown love and acceptance, and anything less than that will prevent that child from “coming out of their shell”. Parents whose kids don’t “recover” are then blamed for not “accepting” their children enough. She describes this in terms of Bettelheim, holding therapy, the Options Method, and other such practices. (She herself was drawn into a holding therapy cult at one point — cult being her word for it, not one I’m imposing.)

So, when a lot of parents hear about acceptance, there’s a good chance they’re hearing echoes of that kind of crap. Which has never sounded all that much like acceptance to me, since it’s acceptance of a person (the “normal child inside autism”) who doesn’t actually exist. And when they hear autistic people saying that parents need to be more accepting, they’re probably actually hearing those echoes of Bettelheim even though they’re not really there. (Such as Kit Weintraub’s bizarre set of accusations against autistic self-advocates.)

Of course the problem is that the counterpoint she sets up against this is just as bad. It’s all about how she’s going to drag her kids kicking and screaming into the world of normalcy, and treating their autistic behavior as horrifying and purposeless and to be extinguished, and so on and so forth.

Both “sides” of this look incredibly medicalized and pathological from where I’m looking.

It’s very difficult to say something like, “No, I’m not saying something from either of two extremes, nor am I in the middle. I’m way off to the side in some other direction entirely.” People want two extremes, or they want (if fashionable enough) a “spectrum” between two extremes. It seems difficult to write something and actually have it read without imposing a black and white category on it, or else a gradation of grey between black and white, when really we may be talking fluorescent purple or dark green or something.