Every culture is crazy in its own way. As I've gotten older, I've come to assume that the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys tend to know what they are doing even if it doesn't make sense to us Americans. But the French continuing to blame autism on "refrigerator mothers" is hard to reconcile with my late-in-life Francophilia:
“Le Mur,” or “The Wall,” a small documentary film about autism released online last year, might normally not have attracted much attention.
But an effort by French psychoanalysts to keep it from public eyes has helped to make it into a minor cause and shone a spotlight on the way children in France are treated for mental health problems.
The documentary, the first film by Sophie Robert, follows two autistic boys: Guillaume, who has been treated with the behavioral, or “American,” approach; and Julien, who has been kept in an asylum for six years and treated with psychoanalysis. Guillaume, though challenged, is functioning at a high level in school. Julien is essentially silent, locked out of society. ...
Ms. Robert said the version of psychoanalysis that is most prevalent in France, particularly the post-Freudian school championed by Jacques Lacan, takes it as a given that autism and other mental health problems are caused by children’s relationship with their mothers, or by “maternal madness.”
“Sometimes, when the mother is depressed, in utero, I mean when she is pregnant or at birth, sometimes the child can be autistic,” an analyst tells the camera in one scene. Another explains that autistic children “are sick of language — autism is a way of defending themselves from language.”
To the question of what an autistic child can expect to gain from psychoanalysis, yet another analyst responds, “The pleasure of taking interest in a soap bubble. I can’t answer anything else.”
I'm not hugely optimistic about the efficacy of the "American" approaches, but the good news is that they at least tend to be more motivated by attempts to find something to help the children than to keep elderly acolytes of a defunct dogma employed. Aged Freudians guilt-tripping the moms of autistic kids doesn't do anybody any good, except keeping the old shrinks from realizing they've wasted their lives.
By the way, Lacan
was born into a conservative Catholic family, Jesuit-educated, and, as a youth, a far rightist.