Munchausen by Society
Back when Asperger's Syndrome (which was added to the DSM-IV in 1994) was a relatively new and little-known diagnosis, several parents in the UK were wrongly accused of Munchausen by Proxy when they asked for school accommodations for their Aspie kids. Distraught after receiving the diagnosis, these parents talked about their children in the alarmist terms commonly found in today's accounts of autism, calling them tragic sufferers with a severe mental disorder who probably would never be able to marry, hold a job, or live independently. Local educators looked at the children and saw healthy, intelligent kids with a few nervous habits and quirky behaviors. They reported the parents to social services investigators as suspected Munchausen cases, concluding that there could be no other reason to use such exaggerated negative language.
The parents got help from autism experts, including Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University, who spoke in their defense. The accusations were dropped, and rightly so, as the parents were only repeating the dire predictions that they had heard from psychologists or read on the Internet. The parents were not seeking attention and were not intentionally misrepresenting their kids' condition.
Those educators had a point, though. The apocalyptic language that is often used to describe autistic children reeks to high heaven of Munchausen. The only difference is that the parents, for the most part, are not to blame. Rather, the perpetrators of this colossal fraud are self-aggrandizing psychologists, charitable fundraising campaigns, medical researchers looking for grants, politicians scheming to get votes, and lying hucksters peddling bogus cures.
And just like the girl who was falsely told she was dying of brain cancer, our kids are going to have to deal with the emotional consequences for the rest of their lives.