Please Stop Lying About Autism and Divorce
Please stop lying about autism and divorce.
Please. It might be a matter of life and death.
Let's start with the facts:
Brian Freedman, PhD, lead author of the study and clinical director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute, said the findings seem to debunk a lot of the general understanding about high divorce rates among parents of children with autism. Dr. Freedman and his research team found that 64 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) belong to a family with two married biological or adoptive parents, compared with 65 percent of children who do not have an ASD.
Dr. Freedman will present results of the study in Philadelphia at the International Meeting for Autism Research, an annual scientific meeting convened to exchange new scientific progress among autism researchers from around the world.
Receiving the news of a child’s autism diagnosis can be devastating, and Dr. Freedman said the pain is compounded as parents ponder what will happen to them as a couple. “In the work I’ve done with children with autism, I’ve come across many couples who quote this 80 percent divorce rate to me. They don’t know what the future holds for their child, and feel a sense of hopelessness about the future of their marriage as well — almost like getting a diagnosis of autism and a diagnosis of divorce at the same time,” he said.
Despite the fact that no one has any research whatsoever to back up the 80% figure, it refuses to die. Hannah Brown put it out there yesterday on The Huffington Post in a piece called "10 Things to Do After an Autism Diagnosis":
2. If you are the parent taking on the task of managing the child's care (in the vast majority of cases, the mother), make sure you get paid. That's right: No matter how tight money is, you and your spouse should pay you a caregiver's salary, even if it's minimum wage. Pay it on the books, so you get Social Security and unemployment insurance. Believe me, it will come in handy if you are in the approximately 80 percent of parents of autistic children who get divorced. And, if you are one of the 20 percent, you'll have some money put away for a rainy day.
The amazing thing is that Ms. Brown knows she is lying. She published another piece on the same day for The Today Show blog which includes the truth:
When Danny was first diagnosed, in 1999, a social worker told me that 80 percent of all parents of autistic children get divorced. I later learned that 80 percent statistic isn't true -- call it an autism urban myth. A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that parents of autistic children have only a slightly higher chance of divorcing than the general population. The 2010 study caused a flurry of stories, like this blog post from OpenSalon.com, that debunk the 80 percent figure.
The entire Today Show piece is a remarkable demonstration of the attitude I see most often among autism parents who talk about divorce: "We know the 80% figure isn't true, but it seems true, so we are going to pretend that it is."
It's sort of the same as the people who still want to say that vaccines cause autism.
Because when people with significant traits of autism, like the parents of most autistic children, get an idea in their heads, it's really, really hard to get them to let go of it.
The only sensible thing to do with Hannah Brown is to make sure NOT to buy the book she is working so hard to promote.
Unfortunately, she's not the only one doing this.
Part of what made the Autism Society of America's letter about George Hodgins' death so offensive and wrong was that they claimed a 70% divorce rate.
And on NBC's Parenthood, little aspie Max's mother Kristina said, in the midst of a fight over a woman who kissed her husband, "This is how we become part of the 80%." It was irritating that they decided to put the myth out there again, although she was right about one thing: people do get divorced because of their own failings and blame their kids' autism.
Dealing with the real stresses of having an autistic child is more than enough.
It is made more difficult by parents who exaggerate in order to make people feel sorry for them.
Please stop doing this-- we keep seeing how dangerous it is to add to the anxiety of mothers who are already dealing with stress comparable to that of combat soldiers.
Please start correcting each other when you read the 80% myth.