The League to Fight Neurelitism
Position Statement on the Cassandra Syndrome

For Immediate Release [first published on February 2, 2009]

The public sociology advocacy project, The League to Fight Neurelitism, supports the application of United Nations values concerning human rights and social justice to all autistics. We also recognize that, in the absence of adequate societal enablements, the stresses involved in interacting with some adults on the autism spectrum can, at times, become overwhelming.

On a personal note, I am myself a diagnosed Asperger's autistic, as was my father. After I received, like many other Asperger's autistics of my generation (baby-boomers), a diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia, I was rediagnosed with Asperger's autism in April, 2007. Subsequently, through my own efforts, my father was diagnosed as an Asperger's autistic in January, 2008, which, as it turned out, was only eleven months before he died.

As a child, my father was, in his engagements with me, both physically and emotionally abusive. Indeed, his destructive behavior would, today, likely result in an incarceration. The overriding factor, I believe, was our mutual social ineptitude. Our personalities sharply diverged, and neither one of us quite knew how to relate to the other. Given sufficient supports, and correct diagnoses, these problems might have been averted or, at least, ameliorated. Regrettably, the Asperger's autism category was not formally recognized by the American Psychiatric Association until 1994.

A term which has been suggested for the problems confronting the family of an autistic adult is the Cassandra syndrome. The designation is intended to highlight the intrafamilial complications arising from the alleged failure of some Asperger's autistics to respond to others in an emotionally affirming fashion and to exhibit common sense in their social encounters. These family members, it is claimed, may, as a result, feel rejected by the autistic individual and experience a degree of lonliness.

The League to Fight Neurelitism does not deny that such difficulties may be present in many families, and we certainly have no desire to minimize the pain which some persons experience. Many autistics have experienced considerable bullying throughout their lives and are, perhaps, more accustomed to emotional hardship than the majority of individuals. On the other hand, we feel that to construct these issues in terms of a psychological syndrome is counterproductive.

For one thing, the Cassandra syndrome is not a recognized diagnostic category. It, therefore, joins a long list of popular psychological labels, including Peter Pan syndrome, kundalini syndrome, and Cinderella syndrome. For another, rather than attempting to remediate the socially disabling conditions confronting the autistic, and to simultaneously support each family member, the Cassandra syndrome futher marginalizes the autistic as the victimizer.

Furthermore, The League to Fight Neurelitism recommends posing and responding to a sequence of relevant and, hopefully, fertile questions. One of these could approximate, "How might all family members contribute to the enablement and accommodation of the autistic individual?" A more encompassing inquiry, intentionally phrased not to single out the autistic person, can be, "How should the activities and responsibilities of the family be readjusted to favor the unique skill sets of each member?"

Finally, the League believes that tolerance, acceptance, patience, and inclusiveness are the most potent means to address the dynamics of family conflicts. Negatively labeling the autistic with a concocted syndrome is unnecessary. Families can deal cooperatively with the issues they encounter, utilizing outside help if need be, without blaming and stigmatizing the neurologically different individual.

Respectfully submitted,

Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
Founding Director,
The League to Fight Neurelitism