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This did not prevent the Ford Foundation from making a large grant supporting Bettelheim’s work over five years, nor did they question any of the false claims he made in the annual progress reports they required of him., had begun to establish what has long been accepted in the medical and therapeutic communities: autism is a developmental disorder originating in genetic fault, brain injury, or brain disease.Shortly after Pollak began his research, Bettelheim committed suicide.
I am the mother of an autistic daughter and have considered Bettelheim a charlatan since , his celebrated study of autism, came out in 1967.
I have nothing personal against Bettelheim, if it is not personal to resent being compared to a devouring witch, an infanticidal king, and an SS guard in a concentration camp, or to wonder what could be the basis of Bettelheim’s statement that the precipitating factor in infantile autism is the parent’s wish that his child should not exist. Like most parents of autistic children, I cherish my daughter.
He had always thought his mother’s complaints hyperbolic; now he saw that she had understated Bettelheim’s hostility.
As a ground rule, Bettelheim demanded a promise that Pollak would not discuss the session with his parents, ensuring that Pollak could not compare notes with them or seek to verify or disprove any of his claims.
Indeed, the kind of metaphorical use of language he attributes to the children he described grows out of precisely the kind of symbolic thinking autistic children are not capable of.
Furthermore, he had no research design or trained observers and allowed no outsiders into the school.
But Bettelheim declares: When one is forced to drink black milk from dawn to dusk, whether in the death camps of Nazi Germany or while lying in a possibly luxurious crib, but there subjected to the unconscious death wishes of what overtly may be a conscientious mother”in either situation a living soul has death for a master. It was not hard for me to tell that the claims of success in treating autism that Bettelheim made for himself in were ludicrous.
Almost any parent of an autistic child could tell that most of the autistic children he claimed to have treated were not autistic.
When Bruno Bettelheim committed suicide in 1990 at the age of 86 he had a towering and broadly based reputation: as a wise and humane child psychiatrist in whose Orthogenic School at the University of Chicago hundreds of severely disturbed children had been restored to normal life, as an expert on child-rearing in the Israeli kibbutzim, as a survivor of Buchenwald and Dachau whose writings had established him as an authority on life in the concentration camps, and as a specialist in the treatment of autistic children.
Within weeks of his death, however, this reputation appeared to be in danger.