Dr. Laura on Autism: “Something is wrong in the head.”
We ran into this surprising sequence from radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who advised one of her 3-minute phone callers, a mother with an autistic son, to “seek placement” for her 8 year old child. She makes a number of outrageous and alarming comments as well. Among them, she describes having a child with autism as “torture”, intimates that parents with such children have no life, that siblings are “losing out/suffering”, and compares taking a child with behavior difficulties in public, to doing the same with a drunk.
During her short but pointed tirade, Dr. Laura Schlessinger did not even consider the needs of the child, such as the possibility of providing medication, or getting behavior management help, or indirectly, by having the obviously overwhelmed mother join a support group, to help her deal with the stress.
Read the following, and, if you can, we suggest listening to the entire segment at the link provided.
This is nearly a complete transcript, however, it may miss some words.
The transcript below was made by Jeff Welch on 7/30/99.
July 29 show transcript (1:42 sequence only):
Dr. L: 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 its 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 some 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 its 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.
Dr. Laura: And that’s not abandonment. 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.