Caroline Fernandez: Activity Mummy


Refrigerator Mother Theory and Autism

50s Society Blamed Mothers For Autism

Your child is autistic because you are a frigid Mother.  This is the answer (and blame) many Mother's of the 50's received when they searched for help for their autistic children.  They were tagged "Refrigerator Mothers" and the cold, mechanic stigma that went with it.

I had never heard this term until I recently watched an episode of The Nature of Things with David Suzuki - Autism Engima.  And the Refrigerator Mother Theory hit my Mother core.  How.  Dare.  They.

Your child has atypical symptoms because you're an unfeeling machine of a Mother.  How cruel.  How unscientifically, inhumanely cruel.  Can you imagine the anger?  The guilt?  The blame?  The isolation? 

I am offended.  And perhaps I have no right to feel so.

My children are typical.  The closest I have come to autism is researching the links between vaccinations and autism as the first round of shots approached for my son.  My quick research found:

  • Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who reported a link between vaccine and autism was banned from practicing medicine because of tampering in the autism study.  And studies following Dr. Wakefield's research didn't find any links.
  • Some studies say autism is due to environmental causes. 
  • Others say diet is a factor. 

None - NONE that I have found - say a mother's care giving, hands-on activity level or emotional ties contribute to autism.

Refrigerator Mother Theory is offensive.  Mothers are protectors, advocates, caregivers...and there is nothing cold about that.