Families of Adults Afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome

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Families of Adults Afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome (FAAAS) is a hate group[1] that disguises itself as a support group. It advocates for discrimination against autistic people in custody cases, and its members seem to believe that autistic people should not be allowed to have families at all.

Claims against autistic people[edit]

Claims from FAAAS show that they really have no idea what autism is. For example, according to its founder Karen Rodman, autistic people have fits of rage for no reason.[2] In reality, there is always a reason someone gets upset,[3] and just because an autistic person is angry or crying doesn't mean they're evil or dangerous.

Demonizing autistic children[edit]

Small children are not exempt from being targeted by FAAAS. Its founder, Karen Rodman, claims that autistic children should not be allowed in public schools because they are supposedly prone to extreme rage that could endanger other children.[4][5] This is despite the fact that autistic people are actually equally or less violent than non-autistic people.[6][7]

Demonizing autistic spouses[edit]

According to FAAAS, being married to an autistic person is so awful that the other spouse will develop a mental disorder. The so-called disorder has been named "Cassandra affective deprivation disorder", "mirror syndrome", and now "ongoing traumatic relationship syndrome."

Because if your partner doesn't read your mind and realize that you want more affection, then they must be a manipulative monster who is imprisoning you in the marriage.

Manipulation[edit]

Some writers have noticed attempts to manipulate non-autistic women into agreeing with FAAAS. One person noted that an FAAAS survey was full of leading questions to characterize women as the victims of their spouses,[8] and another noted disturbing parallels between FAAAS meetings and cult recruitment techniques.[9]

History[edit]

On their website, FAAAS claims to have been founded in 1997 as a support group for people with spouses or partners with Asperger syndrome.[10] Over the years, they started hosting conferences for partners of autistic people, some of which Asperger expert Dr Tony Attwood gave lectures at.[11] Unfortunately, lectures were also given by people promoting Maxine Aston's bogus Cassandra Affective Disorder. They also used the so-called Cassandra Phenomenon to claim that Asperger Syndrome makes them inherently abusive and a danger to their families and children, despite such claims having absolutely no basis whatsoever in any kind of valid research.

Publications[edit]

In order to raise funding for some of their conferences, they sometimes tried to sell collections of essays and utterly terrible, vomit-inducing poems[12] in book form and were written by the spouses and partners of autistic people. These poems supposedly described what it's like to be married to them, but mostly showed their prejudice towards autistic people in general. For example, one such poem compared having a spouse with Asperger syndrome to being chained in a dungeon (no really).[13]

Unfortunately, some these FAAAS members did manage to get published in law and social work journals, despite nothing about it ever having been published in peer-reviewed psychiatric or psychology journals, which is where you would expect to find reference to it if any kind research establishing that a mental disorder like CADD ever actually existed in the first place.

Among the most prolific authors of this absolute tripe included family lawyer Sheila Jennings Linehan, who argued that autistic parents were automatic child abusers and therefore child custody should always go to the neurotypical parent in the case of divorce,[14] [15] [16] Maxine Aston herself, who considered the partner with Asperger syndrome the default perpetrators of domestic violence,[17] and less commonly a woman by the name of Harriet Simmons who gave seminars for social workers on the supposed effects of Asperger syndrome on non-autistic family members.[18] Usually they got around the inconvenient problem they were unable cite references to any peer-reviewed psychiatric journal article regarding the so-called CADD disorder (not surprising, really) by a circular citing of each other as well as the occasional quote-mining of Tony Attwood to support positions that he never actually supported or even suggested in the original source.

Note, however that the article by Maxine Aston and Ruth Forrester, which was published in the UK social work journal Community Care, does claim to have grounding in research supported by the British National Autistic Society (NAS), although in actual fact, NAS supported no such research.[19] This was mostly to give their arguments an air of legitimacy. Considering that most legitimate research suggests that autistic people are much more likely to be victims of abuse than perpetrators,[7][20] it stands to reason that this is probably true in cases of domestic abuse as well. So it's pretty scary to think about what would happen to an autistic victim of domestic violence if social services automatically believes the abuser as per Aston's and Sheila Jennings' advice that they are automatically at fault.

Legislation[edit]

To top it all off, for a number of years, FAAAS was attempting to introduce a House Bill for the state of Massachusetts[21] which they claimed was intended to educate the public about the incidence of Asperger syndrome in adults but also its supposed effect on family members (meaning CADD). Obviously, given what has been said by people like Sheila Jennings and Maxine Aston calling autistic people violent abusers, there was a feeling among some autistic people that this could lead to legal discrimination against them.

Response by the autistic community[edit]

It's important to note that ASAN and Ari Ne'eman were not the first to try to counter the types of false stereotypes that FAAAS was promoting. For example, the autistic advocate Bronwyn Van der Waal was already doing so years earlier.[22] [23]

Given the concerns about possible discrimination against autistic people, in 2009 ASAN, which was at the time lead by Ari Ne'eman, decided to organise a protest via the internet.[24] The time was chosen in 2009 because Dr Tony Attwood was going on an international tour and giving a lecture series. They wanted to protest against both him and sex researcher Dr Isabelle Henault being involved FAAAS' advisory panel, given the feeling that them being involved with FAAAS gave undeserved legitimacy to the ableism coming out of the organisation. They also initially planned a similar protest against the Australian group ASPIA, via ASAN's international partner group in Australia (called ASAN Australia) because the founder of ASPIA, Carol Grigg, had written and published similar articles about autistic partners on her website. However, in response Carol Grigg removed all the articles and wrote an apology prompting ASAN to abandon the protest against ASPIA and refocus their efforts against FAAAS.

After a few months of this, staff members at FAAAS got the shock of their lives from seeing what bloggers have been saying about it all over the internet. So in response to this, they personally contacted Tony Attwood, prompting him to finally give a response which they then posted on the FAAAS website.[25] In it, Attwood claimed that he does not believe that people with Asperger syndrome are necessarily bad partners or parents. ASAN did not believe that this addressed all their concerns since he still remained on their advisory board, so responded to his letter. When Tony Attwood went to America to give some lectures, he agreed to have an interview with Ari Ne'eman on an AWA (Autism Women's Association) podcast where he defended his continued involvement with FAAAS by claiming that just because they published a few bad articles on their website, not everything they did was bad and that he believed that they helped some couples where one partner was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. [26] [27]

Similar groups and websites[edit]

It should be noted that discrimination against disabled people in the divorce and child custody cases is pretty common and is not limited to those on the autistic spectrum. In 2010, Ari Ne'eman was appointed to the National Council of Disability by the Obama Administration. There, he helped put together a report on the parental rights of people with disabilities which found they were generally discriminated against in child custody cases. The report recommended that disability by itself be removed from considerations when determining child custody and consider the individual case involved.[28]

Other websites and groups which make claims similar to FAAAS include a website called The Neurotypical, which was started in 2011 by a woman by the name of Judith Newton who also wrote a self-published book about what it's supposedly like to be married to a person with Asperger syndrome.[29] Another such website is a Danish website called Asperger Partner and also publishes similar articles about the Cassandra Phenomenon and OTRS. There are also numerous forums and Facebook groups that claim to support people with the fictitious Cassandra Syndrome.

While there's nothing wrong with looking for support and information if you're the partner of someone on the autism spectrum, it must be kept in mind that there are numerous groups that would provide ableist characterisations of the person on the spectrum. If you're looking for a support group or forum on the internet, look for mixed forums that allow the autistic partner to give their input occasionally (after all, there are two people in a relationship). If the group excludes the partner with autism and claims that it's only for the neurotypical partner, then that's a red flag.

See also[edit]

External link[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Tell Tony Attwood to End the Hate: Autistic People Deserve Equality in Family Law and Relationships (April 18, 2009) Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
  2. Researchers pulling back the veil on adult autism
  3. How to Figure Out Why an Autistic Person Is Upset
  4. FAAAS, Karen Rodman, and the Autistic/Asperger Meltdown Stereotype
  5. ASAN’s Response to Dr. Tony Attwood
  6. Aggression in children with autism spectrum disorders and a clinic-referred comparison group
  7. 7.0 7.1 Victimization and Perpetration Experiences of Adults With Autism
  8. Asperger Males Trashed by Neurotypical Spouses / I Call Foul
  9. Susan Moreno of MAAP, Cassandra Cult Recruiter
  10. FAAAS History
  11. WaybackMachine: Dr. Tony Attwood's Slide Presentation at Conference 2005
  12. Tony Attwood FAAAS Poetry Slam
  13. Asperger's Syndrome and Adults -- Is Anyone Listening?
  14. WaybackMachine: Representing Cassandra in Matrimonial Law: Asperger's Syndrome in Separation and Divorce
  15. WaybackMachine: High Conflict & Asperger's Syndrome
  16. WaybackMachine: Acting for Cassandra — Asperger’s Syndrome in Separation & Divorce
  17. Living With Asperger's
  18. FAAAS Social Work Seminars: Lessons in Hate
  19. Blueprint for a 21st Century Witch-hunt
  20. Girls with autism at high risk of sexual abuse, large study says - Spectrum News
  21. Massachusetts House Bill, No. 2208 - To develop a public education program about Asperger’s Syndrome in Adults
  22. WaybackMachine:The Ethics in Question
  23. WaybackMachine: Smoke and Mirrors - The Making of a Stereotype
  24. Ipetitions:Tell Tony Attwood to End the Hate: Autistic People Deserve Equality in Family Law and Relationships
  25. A Word from Tony
  26. Transcript: Tony Attwood's July 21 appearance on the AWA Podcast (Part 1 of 2)
  27. Transcript: Tony Attwood's July 21 appearance on the AWA podcast (Part 2 of 2)
  28. Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children
  29. Google Books: No Team Player