vrijdag 18 november 2011

The Brainwashed Parents of Autistic Children

To continue the topic of "The Brainwashed Society", I would like to focus on the nuclear "society" of the family, where I have found that the exact same rules that Milgram exposed in his experiment of Obedience, apply!

Discussion of Autism treatments based on the Milgram "Obedience Experiment"

While Milgram’s research raised serious ethical questions about the use of human subjects in psychology experiments, no such ethical rules apply about the use of children in multiple (experimental) autism treatments and therapies.

Thomas Blass (1999) reviewed further research on obedience and found that Milgram’s findings hold true in other experiments and, from my personal experience and other witnesses, also hold true in how parents experiment with their children in order to cure their child's Autism!

Why do many of the parents expose their children to treatments and supposed therapies that in many ways hurt and abuse their child's self-esteem, psychological health, mental well-being, and physical safety on the instruction of an authority figure, represented by an autism "expert"?

According to Milgram's findings, there are a number of situational factors that can explain such high levels of parental obedience:

- The physical presence of an authority figure, played by a child psychiatrist, child developmental expert, and any other person that assumes the role of an expert, dramatically increases compliance.

- The fact that many of the therapies and treatments are either sponsored or promoted by organizations such as Autism Speaks, or the National Autistic Society, or any other known and trusted and authoritative institution leads many parents to believe that the treatments and therapies they submit their child to, must be safe and will help or cure the child from Autism.

- The selection of experts and therapists status seems random, and gives the feeling that since so many support these treatments and therapies, they must be OK.

- Parents assume that the therapists are competent experts.

- The therapies and treatments to cure Autism are said to be harmless, helpful and necessary for the child and not at all dangerous.

The main problem is that these competent experts, deliberately discard the opinions of adult autistics concerning such treatments and therapies, and disregard the idea that autism is not an illness but a state of being.

They also disregard the possibility that autism is a cultural/social issue shared by all who are labelled autistics, and what seem as difficulties when exposed in the neurotypical society, are actually shared characteristics of all members of a sub-cultural group. Something very similar is seen in the sub-cultural group of the deaf, who have a shared culture, social manners, and language.

Another issue that has been forgotten is, that the subjects had a profit. They were paid a nominal fee. This financial transaction created yet another sense of obligation towards the whole idea of the experiment and its completion.

The same obligation (in a profitable reverse way) we see in the Autism experiment. Once parents pay the experts to fix their children, these parents feel a moral obligation and eliviation of their feelings of guilt, parental responsibility, and anxiety of their child's future. They buy hope!

The only problem is that the "hope" they buy is a fake hope. Autism cannot be cured. The true hope they can get is to accept the truth about their child's autism, to accept that their child was born autistic, and it will be autistic for all its life.

No one has better formulated this truth than Jim Sinclair and many other autistics, including myself, who has tried to expose what autism is. Only autistics know the truth about autism.

So, dear parents, I also hope you will manage to escape this "obedience" experiment Autism has become in the hands of the many so called experts, and embrace the facts about autism.

by Jim Sinclair

[This article was published in the Autism Network International newsletter, Our Voice, Volume 1, Number 3, 1993. It is an outline of the presentation Jim gave at the 1993 International Conference on Autism in Toronto, and is addressed primarily to parents.]

Parents often report that learning their child is autistic was the most traumatic thing that ever happened to them. Non-autistic people see autism as a great tragedy, and parents experience continuing disappointment and grief at all stages of the child's and family's life cycle.

But this grief does not stem from the child's autism in itself. It is grief over the loss of the normal child the parents had hoped and expected to have. Parents' attitudes and expectations, and the discrepancies between what parents expect of children at a particular age and their own child's actual development, cause more stress and anguish than the practical complexities of life with an autistic person.

Some amount of grief is natural as parents adjust to the fact that an event and a relationship they've been looking forward to isn't going to materialize. But this grief over a fantasized normal child needs to be separated from the parents' perceptions of the child they do have: the autistic child who needs the support of adult caretakers and who can form very meaningful relationships with those caretakers if given the opportunity.

Continuing focus on the child's autism as a source of grief is damaging for both the parents and the child, and precludes the development of an accepting and authentic relationship between them. For their own sake and for the sake of their children, I urge parents to make radical changes in their perceptions of what autism means.

I invite you to look at our autism, and look at your grief, from our perspective:
Autism is not an appendage Autism isn't something a person has, or a "shell" that a person is trapped inside. There's no normal child hidden behind the autism. Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colors every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion, and encounter, every aspect of existence.

It is not possible to separate the autism from the person--and if it were possible, the person you'd have left would not be the same person you started with. This is important, so take a moment to consider it: Autism is a way of being.

It is not possible to separate the person from the autism. Therefore, when parents say, I wish my child did not have autism, what they're really saying is, I wish the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead. Read that again. This is what we hear when you mourn over our existence.

This is what we hear when you pray for a cure. This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces. Autism is not an impenetrable wall You try to relate to your autistic child, and the child doesn't respond.

He doesn't see you; you can't reach her; there's no getting through. That's the hardest thing to deal with, isn't it? The only thing is, it isn't true.

Look at it again: You try to relate as parent to child, using your own understanding of normal children, your own feelings about parenthood, your own experiences and intuitions about relationships. And the child doesn't respond in any way you can recognize as being part of that system.

That does not mean the child is incapable of relating at all. It only means you're assuming a shared system, a shared understanding of signals and meanings, that the child in fact does not share. It's as if you tried to have an intimate conversation with someone who has no comprehension of your language.

Of course the person won't understand what you're talking about, won't respond in the way you expect, and may well find the whole interaction confusing and unpleasant. It takes more work to communicate with someone whose native language isn't the same as yours.

And autism goes deeper than language and culture; autistic people are "foreigners" in any society. You're going to have to give up your assumptions about shared meanings. You're going to have to learn to back up to levels more basic than you've probably thought about before, to translate, and to check to make sure your translations are understood.

You're going to have to give up the certainty that comes of being on your own familiar territory, of knowing you're in charge, and let your child teach you a little of her language, guide you a little way into his world. And the outcome, if you succeed, still will not be a normal parent-child relationship. Your autistic child may learn to talk, may attend regular classes in school, may go to college, drive a car, live independently, have a career--but will never relate to you as other children relate to their parents.

Or your autistic child may never speak, may graduate from a self-contained special education classroom to a sheltered activity program or a residential facility, may need lifelong full-time care and supervision--but is not completely beyond your reach. The ways we relate are different.

Push for the things your expectations tell you are normal, and you'll find frustration, disappointment, resentment, maybe even rage and hatred. Approach respectfully, without preconceptions, and with openness to learning new things, and you'll find a world you could never have imagined. Yes, that takes more work than relating to a non-autistic person.

But it can be done--unless non-autistic people are far more limited than we are in their capacity to relate. We spend our entire lives doing it. Each of us who does learn to talk to you, each of us who manages to function at all in your society, each of us who manages to reach out and make a connection with you, is operating in alien territory, making contact with alien beings.

We spend our entire lives doing this. And then you tell us that we can't relate. Autism is not death Granted, autism isn't what most parents expect or look forward to when they anticipate the arrival of a child. What they expect is a child who will be like them, who will share their world and relate to them without requiring intensive on-the-job training in alien contact.

Even if their child has some disability other than autism, parents expect to be able to relate to that child on the terms that seem normal to them; and in most cases, even allowing for the limitations of various disabilities, it is possible to form the kind of bond the parents had been looking forward to. But not when the child is autistic.

Much of the grieving parents do is over the non-occurrence of the expected relationship with an expected normal child. This grief is very real, and it needs to be expected and worked through so people can get on with their lives-- but it has nothing to do with autism.

What it comes down to is that you expected something that was tremendously important to you, and you looked forward to it with great joy and excitement, and maybe for a while you thought you actually had it--and then, perhaps gradually, perhaps abruptly, you had to recognize that the thing you looked forward to hasn't happened. It isn't going to happen.

No matter how many other, normal children you have, nothing will change the fact that this time, the child you waited and hoped and planned and dreamed for didn't arrive. This is the same thing that parents experience when a child is stillborn, or when they have their baby to hold for a short time, only to have it die in infancy. It isn't about autism, it's about shattered expectations.

I suggest that the best place to address these issues is not in organizations devoted to autism, but in parental bereavement counseling and support groups. In those settings parents learn to come to terms with their loss--not to forget about it, but to let it be in the past, where the grief doesn't hit them in the face every waking moment of their lives. They learn to accept that their child is gone, forever, and won't be coming back.

Most importantly, they learn not to take out their grief for the lost child on their surviving children. This is of critical importance when one of those surviving children arrived at t time the child being mourned for died. You didn't lose a child to autism. You lost a child because the child you waited for never came into existence. That isn't the fault of the autistic child who does exist, and it shouldn't be our burden.

We need and deserve families who can see us and value us for ourselves, not families whose vision of us is obscured by the ghosts of children who never lived. Grieve if you must, for your own lost dreams. But don't mourn for us. We are alive. We are real. And we're here waiting for you. This is what I think autism societies should be about: not mourning for what never was, but exploration of what is. We need you. We need your help and your understanding.

Your world is not very open to us, and we won't make it without your strong support. Yes, there is tragedy that comes with autism: not because of what we are, but because of the things that happen to us. Be sad about that, if you want to be sad about something. Better than being sad about it, though, get mad about it--and then do something about it.

The tragedy is not that we're here, but that your world has no place for us to be. How can it be otherwise, as long as our own parents are still grieving over having brought us into the world? Take a look at your autistic child sometime, and take a moment to tell yourself who that child is not. Think to yourself: "This is not my child that I expected and planned for. This is not the child I waited for through all those months of pregnancy and all those hours of labor.

This is not the child I made all those plans to share all those experiences with. That child never came. This is not that child." Then go do whatever grieving you have to do--away from the autistic child--and start learning to let go. After you've started that letting go, come back and look at your autistic child again, and say to yourself:

"This is not my child that I expected and planned for. This is an alien child who landed in my life by accident. I don't know who this child is or what it will become. But I know it's a child, stranded in an alien world, without parents of its own kind to care for it. It needs someone to care for it, to teach it, to interpret and to advocate for it. And because this alien child happened to drop into my life, that job is mine if I want it."

If that prospect excites you, then come join us, in strength and determination, in hope and in joy. The adventure of a lifetime is ahead of you.

Jim Sinclair

The Brainwashed Society

From pain/fear to submission

"The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act."
–Stanley Milgram, 1974

Let's go back some 5o years, when Psychology first began experimenting with human behavior, when laws were more flexible and did not prevent such experiments, mostly laws changed later on not so much to protect the experiment's subjects, but more to avoid similar findings that would open too many eyes to the true workings of the social mechanism of mass manipulation!

One of the pioneers was Stanley Milgram, a Yale University psychologist. Milgram used his experiments to push the limits of understanding human behavior and of course the workings of human fear and submission to bullying and terror.

One of the experiments that Milgram did was "The Obedience Experiment".

As the title announces, Milgram wanted to find out how difficult it was, or how easy perhaps, to turn a "normal" human being into a monster. Lets not forget that his experiments took place after the cruelties of World War II were exposed in what is known as the Nuremberg Trials, and shortly after the trial of the WWII criminal Adolph Eichmann had begun. These trials brought a shock to the world of how easily perhaps, "normal" German citizens had turned into Nazi monsters and the cruelties they did during the war and in the many concentration camps.

So, what turns a "normal" human being into such an inhuman monster? Milgram set an experiment to find out!

What if a person in a position of authority ordered you to deliver a 400-volt electrical shock to another person, causing them pain and discomfort, would you follow their orders and do it?

Most people would answer this question with an adamant no, but Milgram conducted a series of obedience experiments during the 1960s that demonstrated surprising results. These experiments offer a powerful and disturbing look into the power of authority and obedience.

Introduction to the Milgram Experiment

Milgram started his experiments in 1961, shortly after Adolph Eichmann's trial had begun. Eichmann’s defense that he was simply following instructions when he ordered the deaths of millions of Jews roused Milgram’s interest. In his 1974 book Obedience to Authority, Milgram posed the question, "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?"

Method Used in the Milgram Experiment

The participants in the Milgram experiment were 40 men recruited using newspaper ads. In exchange for their participation, each person was paid $4.50.

Milgram developed an intimidating shock generator, with shock levels starting at 30 volts and increasing in 15-volt increments all the way up to 450 volts. The many switches were labeled with terms including "slight shock," "moderate shock" and "danger: severe shock." The final two switches were labeled simply with an ominous "XXX."

Each participant took the role of a "teacher" who would then deliver a shock to the "student" every time an incorrect answer was produced. While the participant believed that he was delivering real shocks to the student, the student was actually a confederate in the experiment who was simply pretending to be shocked.

As the experiment progressed, the participant would hear the learner plead to be released or even complain about a heart condition. Once the 300-volt level had been reached, the learner banged on the wall and demanded to be released. Beyond this point, the learner became completely silent and refused to answer any more questions. The experimenter then instructed the participant to treat this silence as an incorrect response and deliver a further shock.

Most participants asked the experimenter whether they should continue. The experimenter issued a series of commands to prod the participant along:
"Please continue."
"The experiment requires that you continue."
"It is absolutely essential that you continue."
"You have no other choice, you must go on."

Results of the Milgram Experiment

The level of shock that the participant was willing to deliver was used as the measure of obedience. How far do you think that most participants were willing to go?
When Milgram posed this question to a group of Yale University students, it was predicted that no more than 3 out of 100 participants would deliver the maximum shock. In reality, 65% of the participants in Milgram’s study delivered the maximum shocks.

Of the 40 participants in the study, 26 delivered the maximum shocks while 14 stopped before reaching the highest levels. It is important to note that many of the subjects became extremely agitated, distraught and angry at the experimenter. Yet they continued to follow orders all the way to the end.

Because of concerns about the amount of anxiety experienced by many of the participants, all subjects were debriefed at the end of the experiment to explain the procedures and the use of deception. However, many critics of the study have argued that many of the participants were still confused about the exact nature of the experiment. Milgram later surveyed the participants and found that 84% were glad to have participated, while only 1% regretted their involvement.

Discussion of the Milgram Experiment

While Milgram’s research raised serious ethical questions about the use of human subjects in psychology experiments, his results have also been consistently replicated in further experiments. Thomas Blass (1999) reviewed further research on obedience and found that Milgram’s findings hold true in other experiments.

Why did so many of the participants in this experiment perform a seemingly sadistic act on the instruction of an authority figure? According to Milgram, there are a number of situational factors that can explain such high levels of obedience:
- The physical presence of an authority figure dramatically increased compliance.
- The fact that the study was sponsored by Yale (a trusted and authoritative academic institution) led many participants to believe that the experiment must be safe.
- The selection of teacher and learner status seemed random.
- Participants assumed that the experimenter was a competent expert.
- The shocks were said to be painful, not dangerous.

Later experiments conducted by Milgram indicated that the presence of rebellious peers dramatically reduced obedience levels. When other people refused to go along with the experimenters orders, 36 out of 40 participants refused to deliver the maximum shocks.

"Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority" (Milgram, 1974).

Milgram’s experiment has become a classic in psychology, demonstrating the dangers of obedience. While this experiment suggests that situational variables have a stronger sway than personality factors in determining obedience, other psychologists argue that obedience is heavily influenced by both external and internal factors, such as personal beliefs and overall temperament.

Suggested Reading:

Milgram, S. (1973). The perils of obedience. Harper’s Magazine, 62-77.
Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority: An experimental view. Harpercollins
Sucked into Obedience

Suggested Viewing:

The 5 Monkeys experiment