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Refrigerator Mothers

Refrigerator Mothers
53:53 | 2003

Categories: Documentary, Science and Environment, Health and Food

It is America of the 1950s and 1960s, when a woman's most important contribution to society is generally considered to be her ability to raise happy, well-adjusted children. But for the mother whose child is diagnosed with autism, her life's purpose will soon become a twisted nightmare. Looking for help and support, she encounters instead a medical establishment that pins the blame for her child's bizarre behaviors on her supposedly frigid and detached mothering. Along with a heartbreaking label for her child, she receives a devastating label of her own. She is a "refrigerator mother".

Refrigerator Mothers paints an intimate portrait of an entire generation of mothers, already laden with the challenge of raising profoundly disordered children, who lived for years under the dehumanizing shadow of professionally promoted "mother blame."

Once isolated and unheard, these mothers have emerged with strong, resilient voices to share the details of their personal journeys. Through their poignant stories, Refrigerator Mothers puts a human face on what can happen when authority goes unquestioned and humanity is removed from the search for scientific answers.

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Reviews: A+ 95 Fans
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Comments

Caryn McAdoo
a********m
October 15, 2014
A
Tim Horsburgh
t********m
April 2, 2014
A+
Nicole Geffre
n********u
February 8, 2014
This is such a beautiful and touching film. I cried. How painful for these poor mothers. I am so glad they shared their stories.
Silvia Campo
s********m
December 16, 2013
A+
Debs Ellen
d********m
October 18, 2013
A+
I have used this term used against me, I felt very connected with this film. Thank you
Angie Austin
f********m
October 8, 2013
A
Arnaud Gaudin
a********m
September 1, 2013
A
Barbara Kilp
b********m
August 21, 2013
A+
Priya
p********m
July 17, 2013
A+
Susan Carmichael User
s********m
July 2, 2013
A
Nate
f********m
June 15, 2013
A+
Trianla Carder
1********g
March 10, 2013
Wow I can not imagine what these mothers went through. How disturbing to be blamed for ANYTHING that is wrong with your child, and then having your child taken away, I would die. I thought I had it hard today, from now on Ill know better. What wonderfull people these mothers are, and all mothers who have had to care for their own child with Autisum.
Sandy Shores
1********g
March 3, 2013
This is so typical of the teachers who blame the parent because they themselves can't do their jobs. We as the nations people pay extra money to these supposed special teachers just to be told its not our fault it's your fault. When does the buck stop with them? The supposed experts we pay? We have long ago lost the true essence of what a teacher is because now they are in the business of the government and its power and not teaching.
Arlena Zeek
1********g
January 27, 2013
Even now, many still blame the parent...the school system has in my case especially and had to fight against having my son placed into a behavioral facility to be placed away from society, I have sacrificed working so my son could attend an online charter school and be safe from restraint and placed in seclusion rooms at school...wish could say peoples attitudes have changed now, but sadly...they are still pretty much the same..it is psychology that started the idea of our children being defective and the parent as well..when Autism is a nuerological disorder not a mental dissorder like once believed..we should be more advanced then this in our thinking...our children are truly gifts from God...my son was diagnosed back in 2007..love you Jonathon!
Dianne Sumpter
1********g
November 5, 2012
So typical... blame women for the ills of the world. Don't mind that men are still controllers of the red button for wars and holocausts. >_> They, the experts, overlooked the facts that state males, men/fathers, are more likely to suffer from mental disorders and past them to their children, particularly their male children, than females. If anyone is feeble minded and emotionally weak, it's the fathers/men.
Dianne Sumpter
1********g
September 5, 2012
One of the ason autism and other.
Anja Wikström
7********g
January 29, 2012
A very important film! All those wonderful kids and loving parents and the horrible treatment and accusations they had to endure. Today in Sweden there is much discussion around ADHD. Many people claim it doesn´t exist and others say it´s all caused by poor parenting skills. But ADHD and autism spectrum disorders tend to overlap. It´s not rare for someone to have a little of both. It seems Bettelheims theories have wandered off into other areas, such as the views on ADHD and parenting skills. Many persons seem to think that parents decide 100 percent how their offspring will turn out. They cannot imagine anyting else and thus they seek the explanation in the parents if the child is special in some way. This is still quite common even though it does not have as severe consequences as it had for those tormented families in the fifties and sixties. Thank you so much for this film and for making it available for everyone to see. Kind regards/ Anja Wikström parent of two children, one with ADHD/Asperger
Mohd Azrin Seliman
m********m
January 23, 2012
hhmm
Mohd Azrin Seliman
m********m
January 23, 2012
hhmm
Billie Jo Lear
1********g
November 29, 2011
"experts blaming mothers" is a term for " we don't know what's wrong "... experts have become the non expert at everything in my book..if you want to know what is wrong with a child..ask their mother.. run from the experts!
Billie Jo Lear
1********g
November 29, 2011
"experts blaming mothers" is a term for " we don't know what's wrong "... experts have become the non expert at everything in my book..if you want to know what is wrong with a child..ask their mother.. run from the experts!
Rosa Amberson
5********g
November 21, 2011
So sad
Rosa Amberson
5********g
November 21, 2011
So sad
null
1********g
October 13, 2011
In every generation there seems to be yet another so-called expert that blames mothers for autism. The new theory is generally a variant of the same old recycled theory that blames poor ole mom. The most famous person to champion the term “Refrigerator Mother” was Bruno Bettleheim. The theory was that autism was caused by an emotional frigidity of the mother. As a mother who has been in the autism wars for more than 20 years, I say it’s time to clarify a few things to these luddites who always have the trappings of legitimacy, with MDs and Ph.D.s behind their names, exploiting their credentials to propagate their nonsense. From Bettelheim in the 1950s to the latest incarnation of MDs who flog this junk using theories that have no data, there are a few things that must be emphasized. First, when a child from birth ignores everyone’s presence, cries incessantly and is up all night for years on end, to the point where the mother is barely functioning, the child’s autism is the CAUSE of the mother’s condition, not the other way around! In other words, the mother’s stress or depression does not cause autism... autism causes maternal stress and depression. Put simply, these professionals do not understand that the causal arrow goes the other way! You’d think that after a decade of post-secondary education, these so-called experts would have figured that out, but apparently not. Also, before doctors and researchers venture into the murky waters of autism, I would suggest they read a few peer-reviewed journal articles that have been written in the last decade, and also walk a block, not a mile, in the shoes of a mother of an untreated child with autism. Second, a theory is useless without any data supporting it. Put simply, show us the data, or put a sock in it! Since these big thinkers seem happy to posit theories that they have no plans to test and are, therefore, perennially without data to support them, let me have a go, and posit one of my own. Doctors and researchers with little talent and less integrity, tend to gravitate to fields where there is no known cause and no known cure – like autism. That way, B.S. can be purveyed with impunity, since few folks actually expect rigorous scientific standards of conduct (i.e., proper theory construction, hypothesis development, experimental design, testing, data collection, statistical analyses, presentation of results, and interpretation). In other words, where autism is concerned, it’s still the wild west of science. However, the good news is that as we learn more about the true neurobiology of autism, these ignorant pretenders will be relegated to the Flat Earth Society where they belong.
Billie Jo Lear
1********g
July 20, 2012
Autism effects more and more families in this country. Some day, and that day is coming before we know it, the experts will have enough autistic children themselves, that they will no longer be able to deny the obvious... until it happens to you, you really have no idea. I do not have a child with autism, however the experts plague all sorts of disease and illness. I do have a child with a brain injury who has autistic features... and that is all too common in the tbi world... autistic features means he fits in the autistic spectrum but the behaviors are caused by tbi... does this not denote clearly that his autism is somehow related to disfunction in the brain? Is it ok for the experts themselves to call autism a result of brain injury when it suits them only? That is a real question that needs to be asked... why is ok to for it to be an injury or a disfunction of the brain... when it suits the experts only?
Mary Fussell
1********g
October 7, 2011
What a beautiful intimate glimpse into the lives and love of mothers of children with autism and horrid impact of the misguiding and self indulgent freudian Bruno Bettleheim. This film was wonderfully made and conveys a sense of the era and genre using integrative video clips and interviews.