Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Autism in Catalunya

One of our kids has a relatively mild form of autism (helpfully named “Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified”), which basically means he does really well in school but gets teased a lot. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I had the same thing. It actually took us much longer than normal to get a diagnosis, because we had the bad luck of getting a psychologist who was from the psychoanalytical persuasion. In case you were wondering, psychoanalysis is that old-school Freudian thing where you blame people’s problems on frigid mothers, repressed emotions, etc.

What we hadn’t been aware of, was that there is a bit of a time-wrap here in Catalunya, France and parts of Switzerland, where psychoanalysis has managed to remain a dominant force in the treatment of autism, despite the fact that the rest of the world realized this was a really bad idea since the 1970s or so. One explanation is that that during the Second World War, pro-Vichy psychiatrists believed in the genetic theory whereas pro-Resistance professionals took the psychoanalytic approach. A recent film has been stirring up controversy in France, mostly due to the fact that it makes psychoanalysts look like idiots. You can watch it on YouTube with English subtitles.

In any case, if you think your kid might have social or development issues, one very good place to take them is the “Unidad Especializada en Trastornos del Desarrollo” at Sant Joan de Deu Hospital in Barcelona. Unfortunately the waiting list is quite long (we contacted them in April and got the diagnosis in December). On the positive side, since this is a public hospital, the diagnosis can be used for official purposes, such as getting a certificate of disability, which can be used to get priority assignment to a school would be a good fit for your child.

Unfortunately, due to funding cuts, Sant Joan de Deu doesn’t do treatment anymore, but there are very good resources out there. For Sant Cugat, we’ve looked into the Asociación TEA (Asperger) valles occidental, which provide psychologists (more along the lines of behavioral and congnative therapy), in addition to a extra-curricular space, where kids with similar issues get together and practice their social interaction while being supervised by psychologists. So far our experience has been very positive, even just being with other parents that have similar concerns has been a great help for us.


Anonymous said...

Some very interesting shrinks here in Spain. About 10 years ago I was prescribed Seroxat for depression (by me private insurance family doctor) and started having the usual side effects of sleep problems, weight gain, etc. I went to a shrink from the same health plan, who insisted that the side effects are my fault."You have a very rebelious character", she said, "and your refusal to submit to the treatment is making the medication produce those side effects." I don't know what else she said because I was out the door as fast as I could gol...

santcugat said...

Wow. It's as if you went to the doctor and all of a sudden they show up with a jar of leeches.