That Tony Humphreys Autism Article In Full


From last week’s Irish Examiner.

Not available online and causing a stink on today’s LIveline

A team of researchers at Cambridge University is currently exploring the connection between high-achieving parents, such as engineers, scientists and computer programmers and the development of their children. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, who is the director of the Autism Research Centre at the university, says there are indications that adults who have careers in areas of science and math are more likely to have autistic children.

In studies in 1997 and 2001 it was found that the children and grandchildren of engineers were more likely to be autistic and that mathematicians had higher rates of autism than other professions. What is shocking is that Dr Baron-Cohen and the team of researchers are one: assuming that autism is a scientific fact and, two: missing the glaringly obvious fact that if the adults they researched live predominantly in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity.

After all, the deepest need of every child is to be unconditionally loved and the absence of it results in children shutting down emotionally themselves because to continue to spontaneously reach out for love would be far too painful. 

Children’s wellbeing mostly depends on emotional security – a daily diet of nurture, love, affection, patience, warmth, tenderness, kindness and calm responses to their expressed welfare and emergency feelings. To say that these children have a genetic and/or neurobiological disorder called autism or ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) only adds further to their misery and condemns them to a relationship history where their every thought and action is interpreted as arising from their autism.

It is frequently the case that it is when these children go to school that their emotional and social withdrawal of eccentricities are noticed, mainly by teachers, who themselves can struggle with how best to respond to these children. An unconscious collusion can emerge between parents and teachers to have these children psychiatrically assessed so that the spotlight is put on the children and not their adult carers’ own emotional and social struggles. Regretfully, the relationship contexts of the childrens’ lives are not examined and their mature development is often sacrificed on the fires of the unresolved emotiuonal defences of those adults who are responsible for their care.

It is important to hold to the fact that these carers do not consciously block their children’s wellbeing, but the unconscious hope of children is that other adults (teachers, relatives, educational psychologists, care workers) that when they are emotionally and socially troubled, it is their adult carers who often need more help than they do. 

Indeed, my experience in my own psychological practice is that when parents and teachers resolve their own fears and insecurities, children begin to express what they dare not express before their guardians resolved their own emotional turmoil.

A clear distinction needs to be made between the autism described by psychiatrist Leo Kanner in 1943 and the much more recently described ASD (autistic spectrum disorder, often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome). The former ‘condition’ was an attempt to understand severely emotionally withdrawn children, the latter concept, which is being used in an alarmingly and rapidly increasing way, is an attempt to explain children’s more moderate emotional and social difficulties. Curiously – and not at all explained by those health and educational professionals who believe that autism and ASD are genetic and/or neurobiological disorders – is the gender bias of being more diagnosed in boys (a ratio of four to one). This bias is also found with ADHD. Surely that gender phenomenon indicates the probability that boys are reared differently to girls and that due to social and cultural factors boys respond to the troubling behaviours of their adult carers in ways that are radically different to girls. 

What is equally distressing is that, as for ADHD, a whole industry involving research, assessment, screening, education and treatment has been developed, despite the absence of any scientific basis or test for either the originally ‘detected’ autism or for the broader construct of ASD.

Sami Timimi, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and two colleagues rigorously examined over 5000 research articles on autism and ASD and found no scientific basis for what they now refer to as mythical disorders. They outline their findings in their book ‘The Myth of Autism’ (2011). The conclusion of their indepth studies is that “there is no such thing as autism and the label should be abolished”.

The authors are not saying that the children are not emotionally and socially troubled. What they are saying is – and I concur with them – that focus needs to be on the relationship contexts of these children’s lives, and to take each child for the individual he or she is and to examine closely the family and community narratives and discover creative possibilities for change and for more dynamic and hopeful stories to emerge for both the children and their carers.

Text Via Irish Autism Action ‘Core Connections’ (Facebook)

Autism  Dr Tony Humphreys

135 thoughts on “That Tony Humphreys Autism Article In Full

    1. the attention to detail in that beard........

      someday every Irish parent will be as good a parent as tony humphreys

  1. MysteryMeat

    What an asshole. And this was published by a newspaper owned by the guy that was griping earlier in the week about online media being poorly researched inflammatory twaddle (to paraphrase).

  2. eamonn moran

    And most shockingly of all he is one of Ireland’s leading Psychologists

    Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Author and National and International Speaker. He began his career as a Clinical Psychologist in State Psychiatric and Psychological Services in England and Ireland and since 1990 has been working in private practice in Ireland. He has become Ireland’s most influential psychologist, working with individuals, couples, families, schools, local communities and the business community. He is the Director of three National University of Ireland courses which are run in University College Cork and All Hallows College, Drumcondra, Dublin .

    1. nomnom

      I think he has a book to sell. He is NOT the most influential Psychologist in Ireland. Far from it.

  3. The Sluice Gate

    What an absolute toolbox. This would be hilarious except for how it might give weight to this and other spurious claims about the causes and “cures” for autism.

    Speaking from experience I wouldn’t be surprised if he has never even met a person with autism.

    1. JW

      Or saying that the parents failed to provide a suitably colorful environment for the child during those critical developmental years.

  4. Philomena

    My sister has two children, one with autism and one absolute little flyer. Does she love one more than the other? Should she really be reading this crap and subconsciously asking herself this question? (whether she realised she thought it or not?) Because I sure as hell found myself wondering for a split second and then feeling awful for it. People who don’t understand autism may be forming actual opinions based on this article. And I use that term loosely.

    PS Kudos to Broadsheet for printing yet another disappearing article (The truth about Kate’s article meant so much to me, thank you)

    1. Jimmy

      Unfortunately there are a number of psychologists who follow this line, I know of two prominent ones in NUI Maynooth for example who believe that autism/schizophrenia and other neural disorders should not be called disorders. They’ve also told their students how they do not vaccinate their children. Need I explain why.

  5. Victor Black

    I might be wrong but is it so bad that someone expressed an opinion that may not be popular? Regardless of its content is a newspaper printing an article about it so wrong. It encourages a debate, is that a bad thing? Why should we demand someone is fired because they expressed views we disagree with. I dont agree with him but I don’t know anything about it. After reading this article I have no doubt at some stage over the next week I will start reading about it.

    1. Paul Moloney

      “I might be wrong but is it so bad that someone expressed an opinion that may not be popular?”

      Science is not about “opinion”. Science is about fact. The guy (Sami Tamimi) whose work he supposedly based his article on was on radio today to disagree with him!


      1. Victor Black

        Fair enough on the science fact vs opinion point but I am sure you understand the point I tried to make. I just kind of think its strange how much we give out about the quality of our media and how in say for example the boom times we gave out about all our commentators reading from the same script. Then when a columnist sticks his head out and says something that isn’t considered conventional we all jump up and down and demand they are sacked. As I said above I dont know anything about the subject and im not trolling or trying to open a debate where I try to convince people he was right I just think maybe its not such a bad idea to let people say something unconventional every now and again. Just because he may be wrong doesn’t make the newpaper wrong for publishing it. Or in fact does it make him wrong for voicing such an opinion. Perhaps I’m talking out of my arse though.

        1. Paul Moloney

          You’re comparing apples and pears and confusing media “balance” with scientific truth vs pseudo-science. During the bubble, you’re right; vested interests pretended everything was fine. But they weren’t published because they were scientifically correct; they were published because they fit the newspapers’ ad revenue agenda.

          Here we have a case where a guy is essentially saying that the last 50 years of scientific research in autism is twaddle, and it’s all about mummy’s issues. He has himself no expertise in any real science, and the only research he mentioned, the _author of the research themselves_ disagrees with him.

          Based on your notion of “balance”, no program on evolution could be allowed without a creationist also being able to add their views about Jesus riding brontosauruses.


          1. Victor Black

            Sorry I didn’t mean balance, I think we are both discussing different things. I am perhaps not explaining myself correctly. I agree with what you are saying though.

          2. Lush

            I think what Victor basically is saying that we have to respect the right to free speech.
            No more, no less.
            Mr Humphrey’s may be talking a lot of twaddle but it is his right to talk it and the Examiner’s right to publish it.
            Doesn’t mean they are right, but nor does it mean they should be burned at the stake.
            Less of the righteous indignation.

        1. nomnom

          @Lush – absolutely agree about protecting freedom of speech. But this is not the issue here. Dr Humphrey’s is supposed to be a Psychologist and therefore he has a duty to reference credible research when making statements. He has not done so, his opinions are broad based pseudoscience assumptions. It is shoddy work at best but I do think there is sufficient reason for the PSI to investigate this article formally.

    2. Jimmy

      Dismisses evidence-based arguments, proposes arguments without evidence. Sorry, not good enough for me.

      A poorly-researched, openly-inflammatory and inaccurate article deserves the condemnation it receives.

    3. cyclecrunk

      because there is nothing like some shit stirring to get them unique hits flying. I for one would tend to agree with the article but it’s safer to agree with all the emotionally charged vitriolic replies from outraged (insecure) parents and vested interest psychiatry and neurology fans.

      1. Sharon

        The parental responses I have read are emotional- contrary to Tony Humphreys’ assertion that we lack emotion, because this is an utterly false, discredited and damaging notion to propagate. I have seen no vitriol, but reason and passion. Some have pointed out the errors in the science, some have concentrated on the harm this does to vulnerable people, especially those new to the diagnosis.
        There exists much well tested science on autism causation, Humphreys brushed it aside as just “a perspective.”

      2. Spongepants

        OMG you sound like some one who is in denial about having ASD. Do you know any one that is “labelled” as having ASD? Have you been in a class where there is a child with “autism” who walks around the class, appearing to have no interest in interacting with the other kids? It would be terrible to think that we are not all perfect and “normal”. Einstein was reputed to have the terrible affliction known as Aspergers. Perhaps he should have been drowned at birth for his crimes against normality.
        Cheers big ears

        1. daniel

          was Einstein not speculated as having ADD?

          With ADD it is often said it can lead people to great heights or to cease an burn in spectacular fashion.

    4. Karl

      Everyone is entitled to his own opinion. He is not entitled to his own facts.

      He is spreading misinformation. Should he be supported in this by a national newspaper?

    5. NM

      Totally agree with you Victor… its the debate that we need. There is a pink elephant in the room that just has to be addressed…..

    6. Daniel

      I haven’t heard many calling for him to be fired, most are expressing how they feel about his view. He is not opening debate, he is re hashing a well disproved thesis. He is adding to the already difficult things people with or involved with the care of ASD effected people even harder. He has said they are responsible for there child having autism. Or as he puts it the label of autism as he does not believe in it.

      This is not a freedom of speech issue and papers should not let any rubbish be printed, especially a limited disproved and hurtful backward one.

      Someone expressing there view is their right, the paper should have the cop on to vet offensive psychobable and people have the right to express there views on what he said. So it is a bit hypocritical for you to respond to people expressing there views by saying he has a right to his.

    1. Jimmy

      Indeed that could be one factor.

      The role of male-specific hormones in neuronal development and the unequal rates of neuronal development (girls often reached certain cognitive points before boys, first words for example) may also be important.

  6. Continuity Jay-Z

    That article was never proofed if that text is lifted off the Examiner verbatim. Three glaring typos in it. First ‘predominanently’ in the second para, next ‘indepty’ in the 10th paragraph and ‘livews’ in the last paragraph.

    One question that stays with me about autism is I never knew of anyone of my age (25-35) who was diagnosed as Austic or ADHD or Aspergers. My sample would be small (from a rural area) and I am relatively ignorant of the topic so I am totally open to correction on my point.

      1. Continuity Jay-Z

        I wasn’t sure if it was you or the paper. Apologies, I’m not usually a pedant, but just with the Examiner’s grandeé having so much to say about the quality of print media I felt I would point it out. I was not sure if it was when Broadsheet was transcribing it that the typo’s occurred.

    1. nomnom

      This article should answer your question Jay Z. Autism was definitely around when we were younger, just not as visible and often not called autism. I have a 25 year old family member with ASD and my mother has a brother in his 60s on the spectrum.

      1. daniel

        there is the contradiction in Humphreys ridiculous theory… before it was realized autism was a biological condition people were labeled… “out there” “crazy” “stupid” “a difficult child” “not all there”

    2. Spongepants

      Hi, I came from a small town in a different country and I had only ever heard of Autism growing up. Now I am in my 40’s and diagnosed with Aspergers at the ripe old age of 40. I am now availing of the services in my local area and making positive changes to my life. I have a Science degree and a young family (which is fairly normal!!!) and only realised that I might have been on the spectrum when we were investigating our own childs ASD. Remember, the term Aspergers Syndrome only started to become known in English (written) medical journals in the early 1990’s.
      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards.

  7. Wysey

    Is the implication here that people in engineering, maths, science etc. are emotionally stunted and incapable of caring for their children? Quite apart from the clearly rubbish psychobabble that’s espoused in the article, that’s a pretty offensive generalisation and fairly demonstrably wrong.

  8. kerryman

    A psychologist who denies the existence of autism is as stupid as a meteorologist who denies the existence of climate change or a historian who denies the holocaust, what an absolute twat. The only thing he’s accomplished is the ruination of his career.

    1. woesinger

      Old media never apologies. Has a problem with humility, doncha know.

      It’s the price we pay for it protecting civil society.

  9. volvic

    I never knew that broadsheet attracted so many experts on psychiatry before! His article can be interpreted as offensive, however everyone is very quick to lambaste this guy without stopping to think that he is most likely far more experienced and knowledgeable in this field than any of you.

    1. Paul Moloney


      “most likely far more experienced and knowledgeable in this field”

      But he’s not. That’s the point. Would you agree that a professor in neuroscience & genetics is probably more knowledgable about, well, the genetics of the brain than a psychology? Well, the TCD one calls what Humphreys said “psycho-babble”:

      As I said earlier, the author of the research on which Humphreys based his article _disagrees with him_. Tamimi’s concerns are about the medicalisation of autism – nothing to do with it being caused by “refrigerator mothers”.


    2. lillyb

      He’s not a psychiatrist either so he would be in good company here. Don’t confuse his opinion for scientific fact.

    3. daniel

      I don’t think we are awash with people claiming to be experts Volvic. You’ll probably find there are a lot of parents and people with or experienced with autism. Also you may not have noticed, but on discussion pages like this news is discussed.Tony is a psychologist who has put forward illogical and absurd theories. It’s hardly surprising people are talking about it and it is on a mental health matter and not one that requires expertise to talk about or to criticize Tony’s views. The vast majority of experts have “lambasted” him and his thesis is well and truly disproved.

      So common sense, logic, personal experience and expert views we have heard make it quite right to lambaste this man.

      Also, you don’t need a phd to know telling people they caused their child’s autism is going to be offensive and hurtful… come on! It is straight forwardly offensive, personal interpretation doesn’t really come into it. He should have known this.

  10. Niamh

    I am noticing an alarming rise in the ‘it’s just one person’s opinion, they have a right to an opinion’ defense in the face of these kind of articles, i.e. journalistic pieces published in credited publications which offer spurious scientific or sociological evidence for deeply offensive conjectures. No, you cannot just decide to harbour an objectionable and factually groundless prejudice because it pleases you and waffle about it in national print without enduring the backlash you deserve.

    1. Jimmy

      Ala Daily Mail:

      “The Tony Humphreys’ List of Diseases Caused By A Lack Of Unconditional Love”.

  11. hoopla

    The reason you may not have known children diagnosed with it is because the first diagnosis in Ireland only came about in the 1980s.

    Before that, it was seen as a “mental illness”, the cure for which was to be sent to England for electric shock therapy.

    Do you wonder that no family in your area would admit that they had someone in the family with the condition? I bet even if they knew enough to suspect it, they would not go for diagnosis believing John to be special, gifted, thick-tongued or “different”. God forbid that people would talk and blame them for their “backwards” child.

    That is what this Tony Humphreys is the equivalent of. He is the heavy waisted local gossip who feels she is qualified to judge one and all because she buys a new winter coat every year and they were the first in the area to buy a car. “Look at that poor child” she says as she gathers her own brood around her. He is the way he is because the parents are the way they are, shame on him.

    Unfortunately most people in Ireland have evolved beyond this point and realise that nature and nurturing play very little part in contributing to a child having autism. It is a pity he has not.

    The only good thing about Andrew Wakefield’s claims that the MMR vaccine caused autism is that it has made people a lot more cynical about these witch doctor claims.

    1. ElizaF

      +1 +1 +1

      Witch doctor is the only name for him. Wonder when he will start to peddle his snake oil “cures”. That has to be the next stage in his plan.

  12. A4

    From the psychobabble letter:

    “Autism is a biological, brain-based disorder. It is also a genetic disorder. The scientific evidence for these statements is overwhelming. We now know of more than 100 distinct genetic conditions that can result in autistic symptoms. ”

    Eh…Autism seems to be associated with many neurological differences alright, but that doesn’t make it a brain based disorder. It could be, but the evidence certainly isn’t “overwhelming”. There’s fuck all evidence that autism is a genetic disorder. 100 genetic conditions leading to autism-like symptoms does not make autism genetic.

    Simon Baron-Cohen’s theories on autism are just as inflammatory as Humphreys – he believes that autism is caused by having an extra-masculine brain. He thinks women’s brain are wired for empathy and men’s brains are wired for building stuff. He has his own agenda – why all the Baron-Cohen love?

  13. Jack

    Thanks for publishing the full text of this horrendous hate piece.

    There should be repercussions for anyone who publishes this kind of accusatory psychobabble – that it is filled with so many inaccuracies is a blessing in a way as it makes it easier to dismiss the defamatory accusations laid at the doors of parents.

    There’s an excellent dissection of this piece on The Science Bit:

    I expected so much better from the Examiner than this crap.

  14. Jimmy

    Sorry, I call bull.

    “Autism seems to be associated with many neurological differences alright, but that doesn’t make it a brain based disorder. It could be, but the evidence certainly isn’t “overwhelming”.” What are you even trying to say here? Is it a heart-based disorder? The evidence certainly is overwhelming. Are there genetic components to autism? Yes there are. Are there environmental factors, epigenetic factors, chromosomal aberrations involved in autism? Yes there are. I can provide you with peer-reviewed articles if you wish.

    Any biological or psychological argument behind a disorder can be taken seriously when clear precise evidence and research is provided. Tony Humphreys provides nothing.

  15. cluster

    It is lucky however that in Ireland we choose political leaders who do not spend so much time living, “in their heads” – teachers, lawyers and publicans who have the ‘heart qualities’ to lead us to glory again and again,

  16. popeye

    Would Tony agree that Engineer and Mathematicians should not be allowed to breed so we not end up these inconvenient people..

    Before we had the word for it there were enormous grey institutions in all of our large towns to house them and all the other lunatics

  17. Roxanne

    His theories on autism aside, this man is NOT highly regarded, within any worthwhile, recognised or serious analytical circles. Quite the opposite in fact. He has ‘grown’ himself like a brand. Strategically and chillingly. His manicured appearance reflects this. Thankfully if some of the above comments are anything to go by, the Irish public are not the moronic gullibable twits, that his one dimensional theories rely heavily on attracting. Perhaps he should should try subbing for Dr. Phil and stick to the type of Svengali audience who’ll give him the unquestioned and uneducated adoration, quite clearly needed by him iin large amounts.

  18. Miss Reptile

    Printing unscientific and evidence- lacking articles is a very dangerous thing. Free speech aside, we all know what happened when Andrew Wakefield wrote about his supposed linkage of autism and the MMR vaccine. Years later with measles outbreaks on the rise, people are still refusing to vaccinate their kids.

  19. Danfitz

    Great to finally be having a discussion about ASD. Can I recommend The Austism Matrix by Gil Eyal for all you budding psychologists, psychiatrists and neologists. It’s a detailed research packed book on the development of the ASD diagnosis. Personally as someone working with preschoolers I feel resources should be allocated by need, not by label and Autism is a spectrum the diagnostic pathways are too. It can take an MDT months in different environment speaking to parents and teachers to diagnose. Or you can pay to get it done in a day..or an hour. This is a much more important discussion than someone doing a Tom Cruise (his comments on post natal depression.)

    Keep asking questions


    1. mark

      An ASD diagnosis on its own is just the beginning in terms of securing scarce resources. The label itself entitles you to little or nothing. Not sure what U are implying?

  20. MaryP

    As a mother of an autistic child I find this extremely offensive. I have 3 children one with autisim 2 without. I by no means loved her any less than the other 2. I love all my children equally. The only people qualified enough to make such drastic remarks are those who live with autism in their homes everyday. If anything I give her twice the attention because he needs it. My other kids can occupy themselves but she can’t she needs constant care and attention. He should be struck off what a bloody bell end he is. To all those parents out there who have read this dribble take no notice all autistic parents know the real truth n this article sure as hell isn’t it.

  21. andy moore

    The mind is a grenade in most people ready to explode at the best of times . I find the above article truthful & there should be a softer attitude shown to people with mental illness ? Especially those within the medical & teaching professions . I 1st attended ”psychiatric assessment’ in 1975

  22. andy moore

    ”Well wrap the green flag around me boys” again but I do wonder if pollution of the atmosphere is responsible for some types of attention deficit disorder ??

    1. daniel

      no it’s not. not for add/adhd anyway. adhd has been around much longer than the realization it was a result of different brain function. it has a massive hereditary link.

  23. Spongepants

    Wot a Nob.
    I am lost as I now have no label!!!!! Oh dear. At the age of 40 I was diagnosed with Aspergers and all of a sudden everything seemed to start making sense. Why is it that many of the things that I have learnt and discovered since my diagnosis is now all a lie (if you believe what Tony H says). I have one child with ASD and one without. Were myself and my partner so adept at dividing our love that one of them craves our attention so much, that, now they have speech difficulties, massive sensory needs, auditory processing problems, had toilet training difficulties and attention problems, etc, etc…. On the other hand the other child is pretty normal (Joking). Tony’s efforts to try to explain that we need to have a more open minded approach to looking after kids with their particular “challenges” was a bit like toasting marshmallows with napalm. He sort of knew what he wanted to do but was totally misguided on what he should have done (and said). It galls me that this “professional” feels he has the right to effectively say that he knows what goes on behind the doors of each home, that has one or more children with ASD. Can he fully understand what goes on in each parents mind as he himself has no kids. For example, I couldn’t say that I understand what it was like to be in the trenches in WW1 as I was never there and I didn’t experience it. I’m sure it was dreadful but really I haven’t got a clue to what it was really like. How dare he insult us so.
    I must a really bad person and devoid of emotion as I have a degree in Science. Tony if you took this train ride to sell your books, then, I’m afraid to say that it’s time to get off. Please, please think next time before you write an article or speak in public as your ego has got in the way and caused so much pain and hurt.

  24. Stephen Quigley

    I’m not sure if I’m more disturbed by the personality cult surrounding Tony Humphries or his flagrant disregard of 50 years of medical and psychological research.

  25. mae

    As a psychologist with some experience and several published and properly conduced scientific studies of clinical psychological conditions, including autism, I can say with almost absolute certainty that what Humphries says is really not much more than his opinion, and it is an ill-informed opinion at that. However, if he has successfully treated children with autism then he is interesting. The disorder is an extremely complex one that no one really understands – including Humphries, but from what he says he may have inadvertantly found some way of successfully treating it. If this is so, then he is worth following up on – as every parent of a child with autism knows. If not, well… not only is he ill informed but he is close to despicable. Let’s see some evidence Humphries from your own practice…

  26. mark

    While Tony Humphreys is way off the mark on this I think it is very worthwhile taking onboard Sami Timimi’s stance. I listened to the podcasts of the Joe Duffy show earlier (a first for me!) and I can understand the outrage and hurt felt regarding Humphreys’ article. Timimi certainly did disassociate himself from this article and he was right to do so. However it seems that people are ignoring the core of Timimi’s argument, which is that the process of diagnosis itself in mental health and conditions like autism is a problem. Psychiatrists and psychologists for the most part rely on checklists such as DSM4 and ISD10 for diagnoses. So a collection of symptoms get a label and people are happy to be labeled with such and such a disorder whether it helps them or not. As Sami Timimi said, the “narrowing of our idea of what is acceptable and what is normal” is something we need to look at. Of course then you have the pharmaceutical companies lining up with drug products that are sold as necessary to having a ‘normal’ life.
    I ask the question ; what is a normal life?
    There will alway be people to tell you that you are doing it wrong.
    Disorder = chaos … such is life and we do or best to keep a lid on this, to be or act normal, to fit in. But what are our guidelines?
    Before I get lynched by the mob, I should point out that I am certainly not an autism / aspergers denier… I have my own problems. We are learning more about how the brain works everyday and there is still, no doubt, a lot to learn yet. Science is evolving, as it should. However it is my view that using a manual such as DSM is not very scientific and does nothing to address the cause of mental illness (or wellness)… please excuse my terminology.. illness / wellness etc.. people will say autism does not fit into this box… I simply mean, to do with the mind. If we are not affected by autism then we are said to be ‘neurotypical’, but what about other area of mental health? ADHD, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia etc.? The point I am trying to make is there is a lot of stigma attached to not being ‘normal’ and this should not be the case. This goes as far as the categories (or boxes) we put things into with the labels attached. Eventually labels themselves becomes offensive.. look at the history of mental health across the board.
    My own interest in all this stems from my own experience with mental health. I attended a conference in UCC last November (Medicating Human Distress) where Sami Timimi was one of the speakers. I found his presentation very interesting and recommend perusal of his work, some of which you will find here

    also for my own curiosity, I just did Simon Baron-Cohen’s AQ test and got 27
    (i’m borderline everything me!)

    1. Daniel Murray

      I think you are far more understanding of the reality that the people referenced. I listened too, another first, there is not an overriding sense of expanding awareness or other options wit either “expert”. It is part of what they say but the agenda is against diagnosis and seems to think the brain is the only part of the body except from biological problems. This is far more prevalent with both men than a need to accept difference amount people and not call it a disorder. Autism is so clearly a disorder that cannot be explained by environmental conditions( as a disorder from varying walk of life and experience) it is baffling how it can be presented as such, and thats what is happening here, not an idea of being accepting of difference. If you cannot speak or dress yourself, that goes beyond us all being different and is not caused by less than affectionate parents.

  27. Sam

    I have my own problems too, caused by autism. A team spent a few months testing me, confirming my diagnosis and assessing my needs. They used quite a few checklists, very effectively. It is no different to the checklists used in triage when you go into Accident and Emergency, or the checklists your GP uses when choosing between serious heart disease and gastric irritation to explain your chest pain – after which you get the treatment appropriate to the label.

    The problem is calling one kind of checklist process “labelling” and the other one “diagnosis”. How many people fight against “labelling” multiple sclerosis or cancer? And why do you suppose people complain about too many people being “labelled” with special needs?

    1. sheetnoc

      Very good question. Maybe people fight against ‘labelling’, or diagnosis as you correctly call it, of certain medical conditions or illnesses because they don’t want to ‘shell out’ for these people to get the treatment and care they need.

        1. Sam

          @Mark – How could I possibly be missing your point? Tony Humphreys was writing about autism, the condition with which I am diagnosed. Sami Timimi was also writing about autism, the condition with which I am diagnosed. There are some good, objective and repeatable tests that identify my difficulties. I am told on the one hand that these are psychosomatic artifacts of my parents’ failure to love me and on the other hand that they are all in the over-active imagination of zealous labellers.
          Both are deeply offensive. Is an article on Shyness, also a common trait of autism, any less offensive in the circumstances?

          1. Daniel Murray

            @Sam. This debate is on issues already well tested and observed. While it’s hard to pin down the cause, it is not hard to dismiss Tony’s view. It has already been explored and quickly found to be way off, he is not opening the discussion, he is dismissing what is known and supporting what has been found as false.

            To constantly use the word label is a sly way of being dismissive and to say they disagree with the label of autism is a way of not being upfront and saying they don’t believe autism is of itself a condition. This shows a lack of conviction and a high level of fearing scrutiny.
            “we are entitled to our view, tony is entitled to his view” is what they hide behind. No one is attacking free speech, they are critical of his view not his right to have it. It’s easier to sidestep that and make people who disagree look like they are against free speech when in fact they are just practicing free speech!

      1. Daniel Murray

        Well said, a diagnosis of you child being autistic is not an easy out, it’s a lifetime of direct personal work and interaction with your child, if you fail they will not have a life. There is no easy break or convenience in the diagnosis. What there is, is a wealth of knowledge to help your child be happy and achieve their potential. These parents are an example of what true love is. To talk of them as cold … well there are no words.

      2. daniel

        and sure what does a diagnosis do except get you the most effective treatment of a condition anyway!

        If we got rid of diagnosis all we’d have is labeling of people by the symptoms “stupid” “disruptive” “problem child”

  28. Lisamareedom

    How do we advocate to governments to resource provision for special needs if we do not define them? Labels are for filing cabinets; I agree there. But in order to get a government to set aside funds for early interventions, educational provision, clinical support and financial support for families that have higher care needs – we need to define the condition and estimate prevalence. All of these supports enable people with a condition to get the help they need for a better quality of life. There is no fluffiness in the department of finance.

  29. DanaSaxon

    I will grant the fact that there may not be any physical evidence to base the diagnosis of autism on. That is why it’s a SPECTRUM DISORDER!

    Scientific ‘facts’ are made up of lots of things that can’t be proven. Take gravity for example, we can all see it and theorise it, we can experiment with it. But we can’t PROVE it. At least not to any degree that would make it infallible.

    Jump off a cliff Tony, if you don’t fall, I’ll set up camp at your base. Twat.

  30. Daniel Murray

    p.s. the fact that a grandparent of an autistic child may have been an intellectual or someone who lived in their head supports a genetic link far more than an environmental one.

  31. Daniel Murray

    Labeling is a negative side effect of diagnosis. Sometimes it is self inflicted, others it is imposed by society.

    Diagnosis is essentially identifying the condition or problem, it results in understanding and more effective treatment and/or management.

    1. Sam

      Precisely – “Defenders of the DSM and similar systems argue that some kind of categorical method of diagnosing patients is required to allow communication between clinicians. Critics, such as myself, argue that it’s better to communicate with a detailed and individualised list of a patient’s problems. Either way, an important question is, who will benefit from the proposed revision?”

      What would you prefer from the mechanic – a bill and a “detailed and individualised list of problems” with your car, or a bill and a list of parts and labour? You can guess who benefits, and it probably is not the consumer.

      1. mask

        what he says after that is more important :

        “As there is no obvious scientific added value compared to the fourth edition of the DSM, and as there are some obvious risks associated with this expansion of diagnostic boundaries, one is bound to ask why there is a need for this revision, or who will benefit from it. It seems likely that the main beneficiaries will be mental health practitioners seeking to justify expanding practices, and pharmaceutical companies looking for new markets for their products.”

        this is my point.

        1. mark

          an earlier comment of mine does not appear here.. yet and another is waiting for moderation.. likely as i typo’d my own name as ‘mask’ last time as opposed to ‘mark’!

          anyway what you have quoted from Richard Bentlall and what he goes onto say straight after that is exactly what i am getting at.

          (in another comment which will hopefully appear here i referenced Adam Curtis’ documentary films “The Trap”, and “The Century of the Self”..
          while this is out of context now, what i was putting forward was that there is a lot of manipulation out there. i playfully question whether ‘consumerism’, as a symptom of capitalism, which i regard as crazy, would ever be put in DSM and the answer of course would be ‘no’ as that is what spins this economic world. )

        2. daniel

          autism treatment is not a market for pharmaceutical companies. Special needs and specific autism special centers treat autism, not expanding medical practices.

          Your point can not come from a balanced view, only from a view with a strong anti mental health diagnosis one. One that has formed a view and works backwards to make the pieces fit.

        3. daniel

          Pharmaceutical companies do not make money from autism treatment. Specially trained experts in childcare of autistic children treat them, not “mental health practitioners seeking to justify expanding practices”. That argument holds absolutely no water.. no matter how much Humphreys tries to muddy it.

  32. janya10

    Tony Humphries was interviewed on radio this morning by Claire Byrne . I was very disappointed that he repeatedly said that it was not his intention to hurt parents of autistic children . The fact is that he DID hurt a lot of people by writing that article and at no stage did he apologise for the hurt he had caused . Perhaps the fact that he is not a parent himself could explain his lack of sensitivity ?

  33. Gobsmacked

    Two children in my extended family with autism.
    Two mothers left to care for their child alone, as in both cases their husbands left the marriage after the diagnosis as they felt they “couldn’t cope”.
    Both mothers have been through an enormous amount of difficulties in coping with day-to-day issues, but even more strain comes from a lack of support services, and lack of basic understanding of the condition.
    To think that ANYONE, qualified or not, could blame them for not showing enough love is ludicrous, insulting, and cruel.
    Unless you have lived with autism in your life, you shouldn’t be judging others. Its a very complex condition and heartbreaking for the family…24/7 stress, fear and vigilance.
    Genetic it may be, but indicative of a lack of love, it certainly is NOT.
    Shame on those who write such nonsense, but good that it is published and raises the issue for further debate. Ireland has a dismal record in support services, and no wonder when these are the opinions held by our “experts”.

  34. Yakoub

    The problems with the psychodynamic view is that: (1) there is no significant correspondence between deprivation behaviours and behaviours of autistic children, in fact there are vast differences — you would expect otherwise if Humphreys proposal was true. If Humphreys can show me a study evidencing an e.g. 1/20 savant rate among children who are diagnosed as emotionally deprived by mainstream psychologists, I’ll consider his perspective – but I’m pretty sure he can’t; (2) it doesn’t adequately explain the prevelance of epilepsy or other concurrent disorders such as SID in ASD; (3) it doesn’t explain why parents of children with autism have non-autistic siblings, nor how come parents with AS whom he grotesquely stereotypes as emotionless and distant raise normal children; (4) evidence contradicts a developmental view – e.g. behaviours evident at birth (such as atypical vocalisations, rigidity on touch), plus in one study 50% of people with autism showed evidence of organic brain disorder, and there are also case studies in the literature of organic brain damage e.g. meningitus leading to rapid onset autism; (5) if the people who “live inside their heads” (what a STUPID stereotype of researchers and engineers) were really such bad parents, why aren’t most/all of their progeny autistic? (6) the previous leading exponent of this view – Bruno Bettleheim – was exposed as a child abuser and a charlatan; (7) it’s a chicken and egg fallacy – just because intensive and adaptive social interventions lead to visible improvements in autism doesn’t mean maladaptive social responses cause it – that’s like saying penicillin causes measles. In short, there is a mountain of peer reviewed research supporting the existence of autism as an organic brain disorder. Timimi’s book is contradicted by a previous social constructionist analysis (Nadesan, 2005) which affirms autism existence, so even within its controversal methological approach, there is disagreement. Really, it all boils down to Humphrey’s anecdotal accounts of parents he has encountered in his pracyice. Hardly weighs evenly with the thousands of peer reviewed positivistic research that scientists generally take seriously, does it?

  35. marian hennessy

    i am totally disgusted with tony humpheries. i am a mother children with autism. in my expierence we have had to fight beg and knock on doors for our children. we have fought so many battles to get services and the stress has been huge. through all of this we have loved and cared for our children. what an unprofessional statement to make. he must not have met many parents with children with autism. i have and i have a huge respect for the care love and dedication of each one of them . obviously he has not research much with parents on the frontline of autism that know and deal with the condition on a daily basis marian

  36. Dr Hyde

    I would like to focus on some action. I have no hope for Dr Tony Humphreys acting. I would like the following:

    1) The HSE, PSI, Department of Health – State whether Humphreys is entitled to use the terms “consultant clinical psychologist” or “clinical psychologist” or even plain “psychologist” to describe himself. He is not a registered psychologist and probably has not met the training requirements for clinical practice. Does his use of the titles comply with the Health & Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (
    and the Psychological Society of Ireland ( accreditation of Clinical Psychologist guidelines? (

    2) The Irish Examiner – Retract the article. The Examiner has removed the article without comment or explanation (and despite a defence of freedom of speech). Dr Andrew Wakefield’s retracted paper on autism remains on the Lancet website with the word “RETRACTED” in large red type ( and accompanied by an editorial explaining precisely why it has been retracted (

    3) The Irish Examiner (and all news outlets) – Do not permit “experts” to style themselves with unverified titles and expertise.

    4) University College Cork – Restrict Dr Humphreys titles to those appropriate to an university psychologist, prevent his use of the university for advertising his private enterprises and ensure that he does not teach material in direct conflict with the Psychological Society of Ireland guidelines on diagnosis and treatment of autistic spectrum disorder (unless he wishes to formally state that has exited the psychological profession).

  37. Tina C

    methinks Dr Humphreys may need a hug from parents of children who have autism. I think he must have been deprived of hugs when he was a little boy! I hug my little boy about 100 times a day and yes – he has autism – and I know it. He is also the best and loveliest boy you could meet and I and his teachers and friends are very proud of him. :-)

  38. Mum

    Many highly trained Irish clinical psychologists working in the HSE are not members of either PSI or BPS. It is not currently a professional requirement. All doctors of clinical psychology must complete a 3-year post-graduate training to earn the right to refer to themselves by that title. I object to the title of ‘consultant’ before his name; this is entirely made up and is not a grade of clinical psychology within the HSE.

  39. Anon

    Everyone practising psychology should register, and is a fool not to – and who wants their brain fixed by a fool? Between the HSE and the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 it is hard to see how any competent *clinical* professional could be unregistered (and registration with the British BPS or Polish PPA is equally valid). The whole profession is in disrepute, which this Dr Humphreys could be thanked for highlighting, if anyone felt inclined to thank him for anything.

    Put simply: avoid any psychologist or counsellor who is not registered, and be sure to know and share the registration status of professionals in your area. Registration provides the client with the protection of action by the registering body, action that can not be taken against the unregistered “consultant clinical psychologist” Dr Tony Humphreys.

    1. Anon

      And do you also stand by his right to practice medicine according to whatever whacky opinions and beliefs take his fancy? His right to cause real and lasting damage to patents placed in his care? His right to practice psychology in direct conflict with the Psychological Society of Ireland practice guidelines?

      The point is that he was not “expressing an opinion”, he was presenting nonsense as medical fact, using his titles and medical reputation as authority.

  40. ufmce

    As a Person who has worked for 30 year with children with Autism and different conditions related to the Autism Spectrum,I am very unsettled by this article. The insensitivity to parents and Children with Autism is very unprofessional. This is a very challenging condition, and Mr .Humphrey’ s Article reflects the fact that he has not walked the road with parents who have had to face these challenges day after day. Children who are very over active ,often with very high intellectual ability. I am upset that he would stand in judgement of the parents who give to their children when they have no more to give,who show endless patience at all hours of the day and night. When he has walked the walk and talked the talk then he can call himself an expert.
    Autism is a condition that has a genetic factor related to number 16 chromosome .
    This condition has baffled far more learned and better qualified professionals than Mr. Tony Humphrey. Just because he is Qualified as a Psychologist with a P.H.D in Psychotherapy does not make him an expert in Child Psychiatry and Child Development. He is allowed his opinion and he deserves respect as any other person. But the tone of his article is disrespectful to the efforts of parents ,who have children with Autism,because the article reflects a misunderstanding by a learned person about the complexity of this condition. If he had a true understanding of the condition he would have supported the opinion and tone he expressed in this article with real scientific referencing. This kind of opinion will do very little for the professional trust that parents will place in Mr. Humphrey. After all he is letting himself down by using his full professional credentials to express this opinion without having proper valid reference to support the opinion. Parents need to understand this is just an opinion of one person and it is upsetting to read. Some people will agree with it but that is their right too.
    Just because some one is an expert in Education, it does not make them expert in a Medical field so Mr. Humphrey needs to think more carefully about trying to stand in the shoes of parents

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