Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crusade against "Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder"

July 20, 2009

This letter was sent to the Missouri Department of Mental Health. The article I complained about has been removed.

I am writing in reference to an article linked to the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities section of your website. Your website links to “Network of Care,” which has a library that features, among other items, the following:

"Representing Cassandra in Matrimonial Law: Asperger's Syndrome in Separation and Divorce
By Sheila Jennings Linehan B.A., LL.B., J.D. and FAAAS Inc.

The article asserts that:

“The Cassandra concept is particularly relevant for the case of an AS partner with children. She or he (we will use "she" in this context, because AS is at this present time, recognized in more males than females) will come to the law office and correctly inform her attorney that there are safety issues regarding the parent with AS. However, she will be viewed as an alarmist or, even worse, a parent with parental alienation issues. Thus, though she accurately predicts future harm to her children, she becomes the party labeled as abnormal. British family law attorneys Hackett and Henderson observe in their recent Family Law article that it is, ironically, the non-AS mother who will be incorrectly identified as the problem. When the predicted child safety incidents occur, they are rationalized, normalized and "written off." This is the result of professionals failing to identify the overall pattern and diagnosis.”

This language is disturbing for several reasons. First, there is the fact that no “Cassandra concept” has been developed, recognized or studied by professionals or researchers. Second, it applies one-way, and only to people who are on the autism spectrum, specifically with an Asperger’s diagnosis. There is no mention of a person who is on the autism spectrum and married to a spouse who is a compulsive gambler or violent alcoholic, to name just two examples.

The article characterizes most, if not all, parents with AS as poor parents who jeopardize the safety of their child.
The growing problem of discrimination against adults with disabilities has been recognized by at least one state legislature, that of Maryland, which recently passed Senate Bill 613 and House Bill 689 to protect parents with disabilities from unwarranted discrimination:

“Establishing that, in making a disposition on a child in need of assistance (CINA) petition, a disability of the child's parent, guardian, or custodian is relevant only to the extent that the court finds, based on recorded evidence, that the disability affects the ability of the parent, guardian, or custodian to care for and attend properly to the child and the child's needs; prohibiting a specified department, individual, or agency from withholding consent to an adoption solely because a prospective parent has a disability; etc."

Linehan has written other articles that urge differential treatment of partners with AS in her “High-Conflict and Asperger’s Syndrome” where she maintains that:

“Where there is lengthy conflict related to separation, and where one party has Asperger's Syndrome, I submit here that the source of post-separation conflict is likely to be found predominantly in the problems generated by the neurological disability. This view is a radical departure from the literature on high conflict separation which assumes that both parties are the source of post separation conflict.” This assertion suggests that professionals abandon their codes of ethics that demand equal consideration of both parties to a conflict.
[link removed from Blogger so as to not promote this discriminatory concept. You can look it up for yourself.]

Please consider removing this article from your site both for its promotion of discrimination against parents with developmental disabilities, and for its lack of professionalism in asserting that there is such a “disorder” as “Cassandra Phenomenon”. The Network of Care seems to have this article linked on all its individual regional sites. I have tried repeatedly to get in touch with them but do not receive an answer.


Paula C. Durbin-Westby