Packing, ("le packing" in French) also sometimes called therapeutic body wraps, is the pseudoscientific and inhumane practice of wrapping people in cold wet cloths. It is a therapy used for autism in France, and has also been used to treat psychosis.
How it works
The patient is stripped down naked or to their underwear. They are wrapped in towels that have been soaked in cold water, with only their head left free. Then they are wrapped in blankets, supposedly to warm them up. They are then made to lie this way for about 45 minutes. While they shiver, staff may talk to them about their feelings. This may even be done to nonspeaking children.
Supposedly this is to improve awareness of the body and reduce anxiety. Pierre Delion has claimed that it causes a child to temporarily regress and feel more secure. (What's more secure than feeling like you're going to freeze to death?)
No supporter of packing has produced evidence that it's better than getting your kid a weighted blanket and having some nice conversations.
Packing is more popular with proponents of psychoanalysis, who believe that autism (a predominantly genetic developmental condition) is actually a type of psychosis caused by a poor bond between mother and child. This hearkens back to the debunked 20th century theory that autism was caused by "refrigerator mothers", i.e., mothers who were cold and unavailable.
Parents who speak up against psychoanalysis may face threats of having their children taken away.
The only support for this theory consists of a few adult case studies. If you found out that people you love would freeze you half to death for the better part of an hour if you acted too autistic, you'd probably "improve" your behavior pretty quickly.
“”We have reached the consensus that practitioners and families around the world should consider this approach unethical. Furthermore, this "therapy" ignores current knowledge about autism spectrum disorders; goes against evidence-based practice parameters and treatment guidelines published in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Australia; and, in our view, poses a risk of preventing these children and adolescents from accessing their basic human rights to health and education.
|—Against Le Packing: A Consensus Statement|
Parents, professionals, and autistic people have spoken up against the practice of packing. Experts recommend that time instead be spent on more productive activities, like teaching communication skills.
In October of 2010, 18 leading autism researchers signed a consensus opinion that packing was ineffective and unethical.
- Put an end to "packing therapy" for autistic children — West
- Therapeutic body wraps (TBW) for treatment of severe injurious behaviour in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD): A 3-month randomized controlled feasibility study
- Therapy for autistic children causes outcry in France — The Lancet
- "Packing" Autistic Kids: A French Scandal
- Packing therapy for autism — The Lancet
- Shameful — A Film about Autism in France — Thinking Person's Guide to Autism
- France's problem with autism – and its roots in psychoanalysis - The Local
- Some Autistic Children Are Still Undergoing Tortuous "Treatments" Because Of This Harmful Theory — The Autism Site Blog
- A Culture of Abuse: Autism Care in France — Thinking Person's Guide to Autism
- Against Le Packing: A Consensus Statement
- Le Packing – Pack it in - Autismum