UCSF

More Horrifying Statements from Dr. Bryna Siegel, Bigoted Autism "Expert"


This morning I wrote about Dr. Bryna Siegel of the University of California, San Francisco.  Siegel recently suggested to The Daily Beast that people with Asperger's syndrome can't have secretaries, and The Los Angeles Times that people with autism can't have friends.  But she has made a series of bigoted statements regarding autistic people that go back for at least a decade.

From 2002, to USA Today:

"It's as if they do not understand or are missing a core aspect of what it is to be human; to be and do like others and absorb their values," says psychologist Bryna Siegel, director of the Autism Clinic, University of California, San Francisco. "Their worlds are more barren, their social world is very distorted, and they come out of their world not when you want them to, but when they want to."

From 2007, also to USA Today:

Bryna Siegel, director of the Autism Clinic at the University of California-San Francisco, concurs that an Asperger's parent would be rare, and she knows of just one short-lived marriage. Recently she does more "un-diagnosing" than diagnosing, she says.

In a 2007 article in The San Francisco Chronicle, Siegel suggests that it is good and healthy to look at autism as karmic punishment:

Never one to ignore ethnicity, Siegel homes in on the family's Hinduism. "The Hindu frame of mind enables them to accept the trajectory," she says, "and that's a good thing. It means they're not constantly disappointed by the kid."

Flipping through his records, she notes that the patient's fraternal twin died at birth, while the teen himself had hovered precariously close to death after suffering oxygen deprivation, a factor that is now associated with autism. "Interesting," she remarks. "You know, if that had been an American family, they'd have sued the hospital."

The father had asked her opinion, she says, on whether his son would be suited to working in his school doing photocopying. This, too, provokes another disquieting comparison with Americans. "Parents here would be saying, 'Is Xeroxing all he will ever be capable of doing?' " But Hinduism is about karma, she says. Accepting the teen's autism is a chance to redeem karma, "so the next generation might bring good things."

In the same article, she also tells a mother that her drug use probably did cause her child's autism (which is "okay", because Siegel can tell she is just pretending to be upset):
 

High dramas have included the case recounted in Siegel's book "Helping Children With Autism Learn," in which a mother was released early from prison so she could attend the evaluation of her profoundly autistic daughter. While Siegel listened to her pregnancy history, the mother cried what Siegel called crocodile tears as she documented a heroin and crack habit. She asked Siegel if drugs had caused her child's problems. Many clinicians would have told her not to blame herself, even offered a paternalistic pat on the shoulder, but not Siegel, who doesn't practice self-censorship, either in person or on the page. "I said, 'Yes, I think so,' " she wrote. While the drugs were not uniquely responsible for causing autism, they are likely to damage an already vulnerable fetus, she notes.

And also opines that it's perfectly fine for parents who don't like their autistic kids to take them back to the orphanage:
 

Perhaps the most haunting and poignant case, which she described in her book "The World of the Autistic Child," involved an upper-class couple, both raised in a South American country, who adopted a child from their country of origin. The husband was in his early 50s and had adult children; his wife was childless, a decade younger and the instigator of the adoption. By the time the child was 3, it became clear that he was autistic and severely mentally retarded. Older parents, because of their lower energy reserves and more fixed lifestyles, generally have a harder time with autism, says Siegel, and this couple's struggle was exacerbated by the wife's realization that she hated herself in the role of mother. Siegel and her staff suggested they return the child to the orphanage. Both parents cried. Months later, Siegel found out the child had been returned. "For them, it had been the right decision," she says.

In 2011, she suggested that people with traits of autism simply should not marry or have kids:
"I see deep geeks of all sorts," says Bryna Siegel, a clinical psychologist who runs the autism clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, referring to the parents of children with autism. "They don't make great eye contact, all their clothing is from the Intel shop, they don't have a lot of social understanding. I do think that when these geeks marry each other, that's bad news for the offspring."
 
Thank you to Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg for information included in this piece.
 

 
 
Syndicate content