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Apologise to everyone affected by autism

It is at a minimum the responsibility of a newspaper editor to ensure that the content of the paper he edits provides balance and accuracy.

I was dismayed to read the offensive article published by the Irish Examiner written by Tony Humphreys (Feelgood, Feb 3), which demonstrated that neither balance nor accuracy were considered. The tone of the article dismisses the direct experiences of the parents and relatives of more than 30,000 Irish citizens who have an autistic spectrum disorder.

Here are the facts: 

* Autism is a devastating neurodevelopmental disorder associated with significant burden of care on parents and relatives and the people affected.

* Brain development is atypical from an early age.

* Children with autism need an early diagnosis to ensure appropriate treatment and interventions.

* Early interventions have a demonstrable impact in limiting the impact of the disability. The only thing accurate that Mr Humphreys had to say was “children’s well-being mostly depends on emotional security” advocating for a nurturing style of parenting.

What Mr Humphreys fails to recognise or acknowledge is the extent with which the parents of the hundreds of children with autism that I have encountered manage their children’s challenges on a daily basis with love, humour, patience, nurturing and devotion.

They sacrifice careers and financial security to ensure that their children receive everything possible to realise their potential. A parent can simply do no more than this. Through this entirely one-sided representation of a 1950s hypothesis on the causes of autism, your paper has caused unnecessary distress to thousands of people in this country. It is simply unacceptable to state that the piece is an opinion piece.

It requires an immediate retraction and apology to all those affected by autism everywhere.

Professor Louise Gallagher

Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Trinity College

Dublin

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