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Dr. Laura Advises Mom to Dump her Autistic Child

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Thursday, 29 Jul 1999 23:23:05 -0700 Prominent radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger today advises a mother with an autistic child to place her child in an institution so that she can "have a life."

A disabilities legal advocate who happened to be listening today sends in this report:

A mother calls Dr. Laura for an answer to one question, "Should I go to my father's birthday party?" Her "moral dilemma" was that her husband did not think they should go anywhere they could not take their child with autism.

Her answer is, "Yes." "Buy yourself a nice dress, and have a nice time at dinner tomorrow night, maybe one of the few nice times you've had at dinner in 8 years. And that's fair." Her answer was also "There's nowhere you can take this kid. There is no place." Then incredibly, Dr. Laura recommends that mother should just put her kid in an institution so she can spend more time with the rest of the family.

Here is a close transcript of that segment:

DR. LAURA: Denise. Welcome to the program.

DENISE: Hi, Dr. Laura. I am my kids' Mom. I have three children, 6, 8 and 10 and my middle son has autism. He's a non-verbal autistic child, and we've been going through about 10 weeks of some real severe behavior problems with him where he has just gone from doing so well to this complete regression.

DR. LAURA: Do they have any idea why? Any rhyme or reason to these things.

DENISE: We're working on it, we have an appointment with doctors and all . . . And it's just so difficult, I just can't describe it.

DR. LAURA: Is there much left of you for the 6 and 10 year old?

DENISE: No. They're right now with my grandparents, my, my in-laws .(Talks about sending other children to the grandparents) . . . and you know, my parents are worried about me. (Breaks down ... "so sorry.")

DR. LAURA: Right now, I'm worried about you, too.

DENISE: My father's birthday is today and he's having a birthday party tomorrow, and he has invited all the family to a very nice restaurant where right now its just not feasible and they know that, and they want . . .

DR. LAURA: Denise, Denise, I'm going to say something now that you need to hear. You need to have a life aside from this torture. You need to have a life aside from this. Your family needs to have a life aside from this. I suspect you've done more than is humanly possible. There are responsible people who are specifically trained to deal with very difficult kids with very serious problems like your son has. Let them baby-sit so you can go out and have a life sometimes.

DENISE: And that's okay.

DR. LAURA: No, no, it's not only okay. Your 6 year old and your 10 year old deserve it. They are losing out because they're okay. Your husband is losing out because he's okay. You're losing out because you're okay.

DENISE: No, he didn't want to go. He felt if we couldn't go somewhere where we all could go . . .

DR. LAURA: There is nowhere you can bring this kid. There is no place. And that's not fair to the family. And this is what I call unreasonable guilt.
There is reasonable guilt you kicked me in the shins, you should say you're sorry. This is unreasonable guilt.

DENISE: But I feel like we're leaving him out.

DR. LAURA: That's correct. You are. When it's appropriate you leave him out.. If your husband was a falling down drunk they might ask you to leave him home, too. And I would say, That's reasonable. Yes, You are reasonably leaving him out so all of you can have a decent life. Everyone is involved and invested. Everyone has spent an inordinate amount of time and an inordinate amount of money, an inordinate amount of stress. I bet you get every bug that goes around.


DR. LAURA: Yes, I know. I can hear that. You have to give yourself permission to have a life apart from that. And you know, Denise, this may not be fixable

DENISE: What's that?

DR. LAURA: Your son may not be fixable. In which case you're going to have to think of some kind of placement. He might even become dangerous to himself or somebody else -- and that's not going to be unreasonable either because he would be in a more controlled environment where there are experts in dealing with him.

DENISE: We just don't know what happened to him.

DR. LAURA: Well, you know it has nothing to do with Mommy. You understand that, don't you. Autism has nothing to do with whether you're a bitch or too sweet. It's an error. Something is wrong in the head. Some people with milder versions . . . Extraordinary things can be done, but some people have serious problems and it compounds, and it can't be fixed . . . So at some point you have to think about alternative situations so this family can have a life and please that's fair to everyone.

DENISE: That's what my family has been saying. And that's not abandonment.

DR. LAURA: That's appropriate placement. There's a difference. One visits, One does stuff, one takes the kid home sometimes on holidays, you go on little expeditions, bring him little gifts, whatever he's capable of experiencing and enjoying and functioning in. But don't beat yourself over the head. Buy yourself a nice dress, and have a nice time at dinner tomorrow night, maybe one of the few nice times you've had at dinner in 8 years. And that's fair.

DENISE: Thank you, Dr. Laura.

DR. LAURA: I'm really sorry. I think you folks have gone above and beyond. Not everything can be fixed.

DENISE: But we're going to try to help him as much as we possibly can.

DR. LAURA: That's right, and that may mean a different setting. . .

DENISE: I don't want to go there yet.

DR. LAURA: Well, don't forget other kids suffer from lack of attention, and that's no less serious.

DENISE: It's such a terrible balance.

DR. LAURA: Yes. But you understand that these are normal kids who need some semblance of a normal family life. They are going to go out into the world and do the important things in the world. And if they're not given their best opportunity, then we're losing three. And its not abandonment, it's just apportioning the time and effort.

FEAT: If you would like to dispel some of this ignorance you can call Dr. Laura tomorrow and Monday from Noon to 3 pm Pacific time, 3 pm to 6 pm Eastern, not in an angry or demanding way, but politely asking questions about the moral dilemmas that face parents of children with autism, mental retardation, other disabilities -- asking her what to do about any particular problem that you face every day in trying to give your children a boost into actualized lives. But most of all, demonstrate your commitment to your child in no uncertain terms. Parents here can provide a real education opportunity.

Put it on your calendar. Call: 1-800-DRLAURA between 3pm and 6 pm Eastern, 12 and 3 Pacific Time tomorrow and next Monday. Write back and let us know what happens.


FEAT DAILY ONLINE NEWSLETTER Families for Early Autism Treatment

http://www.feat.org                         M.I.N.D.:    http://mindinstitute.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu

Letters Editor: FEAT@feat.org

Archive: http://www.feat.org/listarchive/

"Healing Autism: No Finer a Cause on the Planet"

editor: Lenny Schafer schafer@sprynet.com

east coast editor: Catherine Johnson, Ph.D.      CIJOHN@aol.com


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