A mother’s fight to bring an understanding of autism outside of the clinic

\From last century’s fears surrounding poor parenting to modern vaccine hesitancy, persistent misconceptions about the causes of autism have often resulted in the developmental condition being wrongfully associated with moral panic. During a recent talk hosted by McGill’s Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry for the Culture, Mind and Brain Program’s Speaker Series, Marga Vicedo, an associate professor at the University of Toronto studying the history of science, highlighted the story of one mother determined to understand her daughter’s experience with autism.

Clara Park gave birth to Jessica, her third child, on July 20, 1958. After three years, Park realized that her daughter was different from the rest of her siblings. Seemingly uninterested in other children, Jessica was instead fascinated by numbers, art, and the aurora borealis.

As a stay-at-home mother, Park spent a great deal of time carefully observing her daughter and figuring out how to best support her, and was disappointed when her findings were dismissed by the child development experts she consulted. At the time, psychoanalysis would have interpreted  Park’s efforts to understand her daughter as evidence of refrigerator motherhood—an offensive term used to describe detached, uncaring mothers of autistic children.

Source: A mother’s fight to bring an understanding of autism outside of the clinic – The McGill Tribune

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