In France people are still medically treated on the basis of the four humors.
No they’re not, that’s a bitter joke, because the truth is almost as horrifying – children with autism are treated with psychoanalysis.
In many countries, the standard way of treating autistic children is with behavioural therapy – stimulating and rewarding them to develop the skills they need to function in society – but France still puts its faith in psychoanalysis. And an increasing number of parents are now demanding change.
For autism campaigners, it is one of the most serious health scandals of our times.
How for decades France turned its back on the latest scientific thinking, and treated autism as a form of psychosis.
How, as a result, tens of thousands of children were misdiagnosed – or not diagnosed at all – and consigned to lives of misery.
And how, to this day, in its approach to autism, the French medical establishment continues to believe in the powers of psychiatry and psychoanalysis – long after the rest of the world has switched to alternative methods of treatment.
The blame – Fasquelle and autism associations argue – lies with a medical establishment that remains fixated with Freud.
“Today everyone knows that autism is a neuro-developmental problem. It is not a psychosis or mental disorder,” says Muhamed Sajidi, president of the association Conquer Autism.
“But in France it is the psychiatrists – heavily influenced by Freudian psychoanalysis – who remain in charge. And they have shut themselves off from all the changes in our knowledge of autism.”
Critics say this emphasis on psychoanalysis and relationships meant that autistic children were not spotted till far too late. And that, in turn, meant that their chances of effective treatment were sharply reduced.
Some 60% of autistic children in Sweden attend school, Sajidi says.
“Today only 20% of autistic children in France are in school, and often only part-time. The rest are either in psychiatric hospitals, or in medico-social centres, or living at home…”
Freud, Lacan, Deleuze and Guattari…the French seem to have a thing for deepities. What a mess.