France’s psychoanalytic approach to autism: Watch and weep?

The clip below is actually a documentary that looks at the difference between two kinds of treatment of children diagnosed as autistic.  One is receiving “American” interventions and one receiving the standard (in France) psychoanalytic approach.

The film has been the subject of lawsuits, with some analysts interviewed claiming that they are misrepresented.  For more, see the NY Times.

When you watch it, don’t miss the alligator as the mother, apparently a la Lacan.  The discussion of what the pencil represents is wonderful.  One would love a psychoanallytic account of who arrived at the idea of the father’s putting his penis in the alligator’s mouth.  Hmmm.  New paper:  why Freud hated men.

3 thoughts on “France’s psychoanalytic approach to autism: Watch and weep?

  1. Ugh. I can’t watch this, and not just because of the weird production values. But it already gets off to a bad start with the totalizing (and certainly false) claim that all people with ASD have the same brain anomaly. There have been many proposed brain a typicalities (over functioning amygdala, under functioning amygdala, fewer and impaired motor neurons, overgrowth in the first year of life, under pruned neural connections, atypical corpus collosum, e.g.) but I don’t know of any respectable researcher who would agree with such a totalizing and yet specific claim as the one made in the first two minutes here. I guess we’ve given up on nuance in trying to understand this.

    The alligator scene is remarkable. The French are indeed different! Does anyone know whether Argentines do the same thing with ASD kids? They too love the psychoanalysis, especially for children.

  2. Ruth, there are many reasons I’ve found it hard to watch, and the production values are high on the list. Neat to have the English in yellow on a white background!. Was the unified brain area hypothesis supposed to be the American-scientific view? I’ve forgotten. I guess I don’t expect the producers to get the cognitive science-y view right; more telling to me is what the psychoanalysts actually say.

    I don’t think it was too long ago that one could expect a therapist in the States to think that anything one said had little interest except as a symptom for desires and conflicts that were out of one’s consciousness. I can certainly remember when “I am concerned that the school does not call me when my child is sick” was thought equivalent more or less to “I hope the school kills my child.” Too, too awful.

  3. Looking at it again, I see that the idea that there’s some one area of the brain involved in ASD comes from what looks to be work by one researcher. That looks extremely bad for the maker(s) of the documentary, but again that doesn’t invalidate how the psychoanalysts describe their work.

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