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Encyclopedia > Refrigerator mother

The term refrigerator mother was coined in the 1940's as a label for mothers of autistic children. These mothers were often blamed for their children's atypical behaviors, which included rigid rituals, speech difficulty, and self-isolation. Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself in markedly abnormal social interaction, communication ability, patterns of interests, and patterns of behavior. ... A ritual is a formalised, predetermined set of symbolic actions generally performed in a particular environment at a regular, recurring interval. ...

The 'refrigerator mother' label was based on the now-discredited assumption, among a majority of medical professionals, that autistic behaviors stem from the emotional frigidity of the children's mothers. As a result, many mothers of autistic children suffered from blame, guilt, and self-doubt from the 1950's throughout the 1970's and beyond, when the prevailing medical belief that autism resulted from inadequate parenting was widely assumed to be correct. Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself in markedly abnormal social interaction, communication ability, patterns of interests, and patterns of behavior. ...


Origins of 'refrigerator mother' theory

Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim and other mental health professionals championed the notion autism was the product of mothers who were cold, distant and rejecting, thus deprived of the chance to 'bond properly'. The theory was embraced by the medical establishment and went largely unchallenged into the mid-1960's, but its effects have resonated into the 21st century. A psychologist is a social scientist who studies psychology, the study of the human mind, thought and human behaviour. ... Bruno Bettelheim - Wikipedia /**/ @import /w/skins-1. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ...

As early as 1943, Leo Kanner called attention to what appeared to him as a lack of parental warmth and attachment among the mothers of autistic children. In a 1949 paper, he suggested autism may be related to a "genuine lack of maternal warmth." In a 1960 Time magazine interview, Kanner bluntly described such mothers as "just happening to defrost enough to produce a child." 1943 is a common year starting on Friday. ... Dr Leo Kanner MD Leo Kanner (June 13, 1894 - April 4, 1981) was an Austrian-American physician known for his work related to autism. ... 1949 is a common year starting on Saturday. ... 1960 was a leap year starting on Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... (Clockwise from upper left) Notable Time magazine covers from the dates May 7, 1945; July 25, 1969; December 31, 1999; September 14, 2001; and April 21, 2003. ...

Although Kanner was instrumental in framing the 'refrigerator mother' theory, it was Bruno Bettelheim, a University of Chicago professor and child development specialist, who facilitated its widespread acceptance by the public and the medical establishment cognoscenti in the 1950s and 1960s. Many articles and books published in that era blamed autism on a maternal lack of affection, but by 1964, Bernard Rimland, a psychologist with an autistic son, published a book that signaled the emergence of a rational counter to the established misconceptions about the causes of autism. His book, Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior, attacked the 'Refrigerator Mother' hypothesis directly. Bruno Bettelheim - Wikipedia /**/ @import /w/skins-1. ... The University of Chicago is a private co-educational university located in Chicago, Illinois. ... 1964 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... Bernard Rimland, Ph. ... A psychologist is a social scientist who studies psychology, the study of the human mind, thought and human behaviour. ...

Soon afterwards, Bettelheim wrote The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self, in which he compared autism to being a prisoner in a concentration camp, "The difference between the plight of prisoners in a concentration camp and the conditions which lead to autism and schizophrenia in children is, of course, that the child has never had a previous chance to develop much of a personality." A concentration camp is a large detention center created for political opponents, aliens, specific ethnic or religious groups, civilians of a critical war-zone, or other groups of people, often during a war. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ...

In 1969, Kanner addressed the 'refrigerator mother' issue at the first annual meeting of what is now the Autism Society of America, stating "From the very first publication until the last, I spoke of this condition in no uncertain terms as 'innate.' But because I described some of the characteristics of the parents as persons, I was misquoted often as having said that 'it is all the parents' fault'." 1969 was a common year starting on Wednesday (the link is to a full 1969 calendar). ... Innate is an adjective meaning inborn (possessed at birth) or inherent. ...

New explanations: filling a theoretical void

There are many contenders to replace the 'refrigerator mother' theory. After the 'refrigerator mother' theory gradually lost credibility within the medical community, autism research has focused primarily on establishing a genetic cause for autistic spectrum disorders. Genetics (from the Greek genno γεννώ= give birth) is the science of genes, heredity, and the variation of organisms. ... The autistic spectrum, or autism spectrum, is the idea that autism is a developmental and behavioral syndrome that results from certain combinations of traits. ...

However, one controversial new theory is bringing renewed life to Kanner's initial observations about the parents of autistic children. It derives from the observation that people with superior technical ability, but poor social skills, are meeting and mixing genes in high-tech enclaves, producing offspring susceptible to disorders whose traits mirror our computerized culture. Researchers have noted parents in fields such as engineering and computer science, with their particular talents and quirks, may run a greater risk of having children with autism or its high-intellect variant, Asperger's Syndrome. Now, this link is becoming a matter of public debate, resonating through the high tech corridors of Silicon Valley, New Jersey, Ottawa and the on- and off-line networks of Cambridge, Dublin and Boston's Route 128. Some call it 'geek syndrome'. Licensure and Qualifications for the Practice of Engineering The Engineers Ring The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer Engineering Disasters and Learning from Failure American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) ASEE engineering profile (2003) PDF Categories: Architecture and engineering occupations | Engineering ... Wikibooks Wikiversity has more about this subject: School of Computer Science Open Directory Project: Computer Science Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies Belief that title science in computer science is inappropriate Categories: Computer science ... Asperger described his patients as little professors. Aspergers syndrome (AS), is a pervasive developmental disorder commonly referred to as a form of high-functioning autism. ... A view of downtown San Jose, the self-proclaimed Capital of Silicon Valley. Like many large cities, San Joses downtown is expansive and encompasses much more area than shown in this view. ... State nickname: The Garden State Other U.S. States Capital Trenton Largest city Newark Governor Richard Codey (D) Official languages None defined Area 22,608 km² (47th)  - Land 19,231 km²  - Water 3,378 km² (14. ... The city of Cambridge is an old English university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire. ... This article is about the city in Ireland. ... Alternative meanings: Boston (disambiguation) The 18th-century Old State House in Boston is surrounded by tall buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries. ...

Medical authorities, while continuing to focus on possible genetic vulnerabilities to autism since abandoning the long-held notion of refrigerator mothers, generally attribute the staggering increase of autism diagnoses to changes in diagnostic criteria and a growing awareness of the disorder.

Bernard Rimland was among the first healthcare professionals to articulate the premis that vaccines may have been the principle cause of autism, stirring controversy as a result. Critics of more recent environmental trigger theories have suggested widespread concerns about vaccines as the likely environmental triggers are simply hoaxes fostered by lawyers anxious to profit from litigation, and that such theories promote and prey upon feelings of guilt among parents, much as the discredited refrigerator mother theory fostered guilt among mothers decades ago.[1] A bottle and a syringe containing the influenza vaccine. ...

Aftermath: escalating controversy

A growing number of parents, and a limited number of healthcare experts, reject the notion that autism is strictly an innate genetic disorder, noting there is no such thing as a genetic epidemic. Instead, parents seeking alternative explanations often link vaccines to the onset of autism, among a variety of other possible environmental causes. A bottle and a syringe containing the influenza vaccine. ...

Not satisfied with explanations offered by medical authorities, a number of parent led advocacy groups have sprung up seeking better explanations for the causes of autism. Some are loosely allied with the medical establishment, including the National Alliance for Autism Research and the M.I.N.D. Institute. Some advocacy groups, including Safe Minds, Generation Rescue and the Autism Research Institute (founded by Rimland), have stirred controversy by openly questioning the conclusions of medical authorities, calling for more extensive research examining possible environmental triggers, particularly vaccines and mercury exposure. The National Alliance for Autism Research, based in Princeton, New Jersey, is a non-profit advocacy organization, founded by parents of children with autism concerned about the limited funding available for research. ... The UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute is a Sacramento, California based research and treatment consortium of scientists, educators, physicians and parents who have joined together to unravel the mysteries of autism spectrum disorders, fragile X syndrome, and other developmental disorders. ... The Coalition for Safe Minds (Sensible Action For Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to investigating the risks of exposure to mercury from medical products. ... Generation Rescue is a parent founded and funded organization united in the belief childhood neurological disorders, such as autism, Aspergers syndrome, ADHD, speech delay, sensory integration disorder, and other developmental delays are mis-diagnoses for mercury poisoning. ...

In response to demands for research into possible environmental causes from parents and these controversial advocacy groups, it has been suggested vaccine theories simply promote and prey upon feelings of guilt among parents, much as the discredited refrigerator mother theory fostered guilt among mothers decades ago.[2] Most observers, meanwhile, are mystified by the conflicting explanations for the explosion in autism diagnoses.

Persistence of a stereotype

A definition of autism reflecting the outmoded 'refrigerator mother' theory appears in a prestigious reference work, the 2001 edition of Rizzoli-Larousse Encyclopedia: 2001: A Space Odyssey 2001 2001 is a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

"Autism is the fundamental nature of the schizoid constitution which can merge into clear schizophrenia ... The autistic child, if he receives the appropriate treatment and this is followed up by his relatives (who are often the cause of the syndrome, especially when they overstep the mark and insist on an over-perfectionistic upbringing) can be more or less completely cured. Nevertheless, even when the problem is resolved, he will still have difficulties in forging normal connections and calm inter-personal relationships."

Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is a personality disorder characterised by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, and emotional coldness. ...

See also

The 2000 Simpsonwood CDC conference was a meeting convened in June, 2000, by the Centers for Disease Control, held at the isolated Simpsonwood Methodist retreat and conference center in Norcross, Georgia. ... Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself in markedly abnormal social interaction, communication ability, patterns of interests, and patterns of behavior. ... The advent of a possible autism epidemic was first suggested in the mid-1990s by a handful of healthcare professionals who noticed sharp increases in the numbers being diagnosed and reported to public health agencies. ... People on the autism spectrum have formed an online community through a network of websites, forums, and autism chat rooms. ... There is considerable disagreement over the exact nature of autism, a spectrum or cluster of conditions, of varying severity, which are not well understood. ... David Kirby is an investigative journalist based in Brooklyn, New York, a regular contributor to the New York Times since 1998, and author of the 2005 book Evidence of Harm - Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy. ... Neurodiversity is a concept that atypical neurological wiring (neurodivergence) is a normal human difference that is to be tolerated and respected as any other human difference. ... The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is a United States program for vaccine safety, co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ...

External links

  • AutismConnect.org - '"Refrigerator Mother" Tosh Must Go Into Cold Storage' Adam Feinstein (editor) Autism Connect
  • Autism-Watch.org - 'The "Refrigerator Mother" Hypothesis of Autism' James R. Laidler, MD
  • ExpressHealthCareMgmt.com - 'Positive trends in the treatment of autism', Dr. N.P. Karthikeyen, Subathra Jeyaram
  • FanLight.com - 'Refrigerator Mothers', David Simpson, J.J. Hanley, Gordon Quinn
  • PBS.org - 'P.O.V.: Refrigerator Mothers'
  • WashingtonPost.com - 'Refrigerator Mothers: With Mary Flanagan, June Francis and Maria Mombille' (July 17, 2002)

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