Friday, May 1, 2009

Not Children: Tony Attwood Still Doesn't Get It

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2009

Some people have the idea that adults with disabilities should be treated as if they were children. This demeaning attitude often manifests itself in claims that people with disabilities are unsuited for, or too immature for, marriage and relationships.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is seeking, by way of a petition to Dr. Tony Attwood, to bring attention to the harm done by prejudiced stereotypes that characterize people with disabilities in such terms. Dr. Attwood has a long history of associating with hate groups that spread such stereotypes. In May 2000, he made this statement:

"...if I'm talking to a mother who has say two children, one with Asperger's syndrome, and a husband who I suspect with Aspergers and she says I've got two children, I say well actually you've got three children in some areas..."

Well actually, no, Dr. Attwood, she doesn't; and such prejudices have no place in marital counseling for people on the spectrum, or for anyone else. When so-called support groups encourage people to treat their spouse or partner as childish and incapable because of a disability, and when psychologists suggest that the person with the disability is to blame for all of the problems in the relationship, this is wrong and it has to be stopped. Period.

In his response to ASAN's petition, which we received yesterday, Dr. Attwood continued to assert the baseless claim that "...stress within a relationship between an adult with Asperger’s syndrome and their partner can lead to the neurotypical partner having signs of a clinical depression."

No, Dr. Attwood, being married to an Autistic person does not make someone sick. And our community will not tolerate this libel any longer.


Anonymous said...

I am a young adult with Asperger syndrome. I believe there needs to be more attention paid to the issues of adults with ASD who live indepedently in the community. I am currently working with my psychology research supervisor on a project concerning sexuality adults with high functioning ASD. I was very surprised to find how little work has been done in this area.


David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. said...

cerns me most is that - in a situation where a relationship between a non-autistic person and an autistic person breaks down - it tends to be the autistic one that gets the blame, and is seen as the one to be fixed: clinical psychology and psychiatry are rife with this sort of thinking. But why - other than a as a matter of prejudice and lazy thinking - should that necessarily be so?

As for the child analogy... don't ALL people have their childish moments? I could (but won't) name many who are like that. The child analogy is totally inappropriate and - as a psychologist - Dr. Attwood should be aware of the majot issues in developmental psychology. Seems he's forgotten them.

David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. said...

"...stress within a relationship between an adult with Asperger’s syndrome and their partner can lead to the neurotypical partner having signs of a clinical depression."

Seems he's forbotten that it can be pretty fucking depressing for the autistic person in a relationship with one who isn't on the spectrum. That else he's never learning it. Or, even worse, ignored it.

Gonzo said...

"Seems he's forbotten that it can be pretty fucking depressing for the autistic person in a relationship with one who isn't on the spectrum."
My toughts exactly!

I can't believe Attwood is so ignorant and ignored the petition.

Louna said...

Can't stress in any relationship lead somebody, neurotypical or less so, to depression? (irony)Oh, no, I forgot, it always has to be the fault of someone, and people on the spectrum are ideal for that.(/irony)

Clay said...

Where can I find the rest of Attwood's response to our petition?

Anonymous said...

Attwood forgets that a neurotypical who isn't willing to work with an AS significant other can be the cause of depression in the Aspie.

But then, anyone who isn't willing to work with his/her SO, whatever neurology, will do that. It really doesn't have much to do with AS at all.

Alexander Cheezem said...

I agree with Clay -- is the full text posted anywhere?

asansouthwestohio said...

Not yet, but it will be posted soon, along with ASAN's reply.

konnie said...

Interesting post. I agree with you totally. On another aspect, my take is that asperger's syndrome during the early stages should be attended and no parent should ever forget that.

Alexander Cheezem said...


No one here is arguing that children should be ignored. Our problems go a bit deeper.

Dr. Attwood is associating with a group who is considering our neurology the default cause of spousal abuse, a group who has accused us of causing our significant others everything from "colds to cancer".

We also disagree -- very strongly -- with the insinuation that we, as adults, are children. If you, as an adult, were to be constantly treated as a baby, would that not grate on your nerves? It happens to us -- regularly. We're, frankly, sick and tired of it.

Anonymous said...

My personal experience with an undiagnosed AS relative is that there is some truth in what he says. Are people who have experienced these problems due to an AS relative supposed to keep quiet for politically correct reasons?
I think diagnosis of the problem and facing up to it may lead to a better outcome, although diagnosis can also lead to prejudice, so there are costs as well as benefits.

Anonymous said...

If a NT wife has to guide her AS husband through social situations, or organise things for him because he has poor executive function, I can see how it would feel like looking after a child.

Of course there are probably things the AS husband is better at, but it's the deviation from the standard expectation that leads to this problem.

Claymore said...

I agree, it's not ok to say that someone lacks adult relationship skills because they're disabled, and it's not as if there aren't neurotypical people who are sorely lacking in relationship skills, I've known them and as you say unwillingness to work with one's partner about things like aspergers or other stuff like if one of you has vertigo and the other of you loves tightrope walking is going to cause problems, which is one objection I have to attempts to turn all differences in behaviour into differences in brain wiring, aspergers is real (and I have it), but if I have to hear one more person talk about how religious fundamentalists just think differently in some innate sense I will go into rant mode because, no, they think the same way NT liberals do, it's prejudice and ignorance and lack of education that causes these attitudes. I also think that there are a lot of assumptions in the statements made about being "like children" that call on assumptions about children and teenagers that many make, definitely an adult is different than a two year old, but that doesn't mean the two year old is a lesser being or without sexuality (as in masturbation and play with peers, not excusing any child molestation) or whatever, they just have some needs that are different.