Autism in France: Psychoanalysis, Packing, and Other Travesties: Why it Matters
Unlike most modern countries, the Autism Spectrum in France is viewed as a disease that can and should be cured. The dark-ages culture of neglect and abuse remains extremely strong. The documentary The Wall or Psychoanalysis Put to the Test for Autism reveals how outdated theories haunt Autism there.
David Heurtevent is a 32 year-old autistic self-advocate from France. He has travelled extensively and even got a degree from Georgetown. We invited him to share his views on the issue of autism in France and to explain how you too can help.
Why is Freedom of Speech under attack in Autism in France?
Back in September 2011, Sophie Robert, a French filmmaker released her first documentary “The Wall or psychoanalysis put to the test for autism” in France. She had worked four years on it and met more than 30 psychoanalysts, who are either psychologists or psychiatrists following the psycho-sexual theories of Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Bruno Bettelheim. You can watch the French film subtitled in English on supportthewall.org for free.
The blog ads2mom wrote: “[the documentary] details the continued accepted abuse and dehumanization of persons with autism. It further shows that the French psychiatric community still maintains the disavowed theory of maternal cause for autism rather than the acknowledged neurological causes, as well as their insistence that autistics be shut away as useless, ineffectual and unnecessary”.
End of October 2011, three of the psychoanalysts interviewed in the movie sued Sophie Robert and asked the footage to be seized. The French justice accepted and seized it. The justice also denied her right to the secrecy of sources. In November, the same psychoanalysts sued her and the French autism non-profit organizations “Autistes Sans Frontières” for roughly half a million dollar and ask for the movie to be banned. A court hearing was held on December 8th and the Parents with autistic children started a grassroots campaign to support Sophie in France.
The campaign has been quite successful with lot of media attention. Parents even rallied on the day of the court hearing in Paris and Lille.
Yet, the movie and the ideas of autism being a neurological condition are under constant attack of the psychoanalysts in the media. Some media and the plaintiffs even described it recently as “intellectual fraud”.
We don’t know yet how the events will unfold as the judge is expected to release her decision on Jan. 26th2012. So stay tuned.
Why is Autism in dire situation in France? Is there real abuse?
The documentary is the tip of the iceberg. The issue is much deeper. The problem of autism in France is dramatic compared to most developed countries.
For instance, autism is viewed very often there as a “psychosis”, a mental health issue. Some even regard it as “child schizophrenia”. As a result, most kids with autism are institutionalized in psychiatric units from a very young age until old age. In many ways, Autism in France still looks at times like the old movies “Rain Man” or even “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.
Theories are not just backwards. They can be really harmful. Followers of the psychoanalytic theories of the early 20th century continue to blame mothers for the autism of their child. As a result, social services sometime withdraw the children from their parents based on this crazy theory.
80% of the children with ASD don’t go to school and many kids receive their diagnosis after age six.
Worse, France still allow very harsh techniques, such as “packing”, a “barbaric” practice which consists of wrapping children with ASD, naked, or in undies, in cold wet sheets (at 50°F, 10°C), like mummies. I invite you to read more about packing on our website.
Some parents decide to protect their children and bring their children in exile to Belgium so they can receive better care and have access to schools.
What can we do about it?
It is time to say “enough” to France, which has been already condemned by the Council of Europe in 2004. Even though 2012 has been declared the year of National Attention for Autism by the French Government, no real decision has been made to stop abuse.
On January 24th evening, we plan on releasing a funny video to celebrate the selection of the French movie “The Artist” for the Oscars.
On January 26th, Sophie Robert and I will give a press conference in English in New York City. Sophie Robert will discuss the court decision. I will launch an international campaign to stop abuse of autistics in France and we hope many of you will sign our petition.
You will be able to watch the conference live for free on USTREAM: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/support-the-wall-press-conference
Alex Plank and many others (Temple Grandin, Donna Williams, Diane Fraser, Travis Thompson, Tony Attwood, etc) are following and supporting our campaign.
We need your help to make it really successful and to change the lives of children and adults on the spectrum in France and elsewhere.
Don’t forget to check regularly our website: http://www.supportthewall.org”