Portia Iversen discusses previous misconceptions about autism, which attributed the disorder to bad parenting.
The very worst misconception about autism has pretty much been eradicated, but I am going to mention it because it was so terrible, and it was actually a great example of bad scientific thinking. For about fifty years, from the time it was discovered in the early 1940s, scientists believed that autism was caused by bad parenting, which it is not. And they believed that because they made an association. They saw that babies who were brought up in institutions, who were neglected, could become autistic. And they saw these same symptoms in children in normal families and they wrongly assumed that it was somehow caused by the parenting skills of those children’s parents.
Scientists made a very wrong assumption. They saw that infants raised in institutions who had no interaction with people early in life appeared autistic, and so they made the assumption that children with autism in normal families were also somehow subtly neglected or, in some way, weren’t bonding with their parents and that this was caused by bad parenting.