Maxine Aston's Cassandra Disorder Scam
She was working as a marriage and relationship counselor in the late 1990s when she became aware of the new autism spectrum diagnostic categories and started thinking about how she could exploit that opportunity. There was just one little obstacle in the way of her scheming, which was her lack of autism-related experience. So she cooked up a clever strategy: Provide services to couples in which one partner had an Asperger diagnosis, and then leverage that experience into book contracts and a skillfully crafted public image as an Asperger expert.
Unfortunately, she didn't stop there. She also identified another potentially lucrative market: Women who recently had divorced or were divorcing Aspie husbands, and who would lap up a sympathetic counselor's assurances that they were not to blame for the divorce because autistic men were neurologically defective and unfit for marriage. To cover this blatantly unethical prejudice with a veneer of respectability, Aston proceeded to create "Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder," which she defined as a depressive condition caused by being in a relationship with an autistic person.
This so-called "disorder" has no medical or scientific legitimacy whatsoever. No professional association has recognized it, and there are no peer-reviewed studies of it. Aston lifted the "symptoms" straight out of the diagnostic criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Although she maintains what she calls a research page on her website (maxineaston.co.uk/research), it contains only simple questionnaires that show no indication of compliance with institutional review procedures. Aston clearly lacks experience conducting formal research studies in an academic setting and is grossly unqualified to hold herself out as a psychological scientist.
Her shameless peddling of pseudoscientific rubbish and fleecing of emotionally vulnerable divorcees by purporting to diagnose them with a nonexistent disorder would be bad enough in itself, but that's not all. Aston has descended even farther into the depths of the ethical abyss through her long-term association with the Massachusetts hate group FAAAS, which repeatedly has urged social workers and family court judges to discriminate against autistic parents in child custody proceedings. Aston had full knowledge of this despicable agenda from the start, and she proudly touts her association with FAAAS on her website.
Although she asserts that as a member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, she abides by its code of ethics and professional conduct, a quick look at BACP's ethical code suggests otherwise. Knowingly inciting disability prejudice and discrimination clearly violates BACP's prohibition against bias:
"Practitioners should not allow their professional relationships with clients to be prejudiced by any personal views they may hold about lifestyle, gender, age, disability, race, sexual orientation, beliefs or culture."
Tossing together a few half-baked questionnaires, which was apparently done with complete disregard for the institutional review process and the rights of the study subjects, can hardly be said to meet BACP's requirement of conducting sound research:
"All research should be undertaken with rigorous attentiveness to the quality and integrity both of the research itself and of the dissemination of the results of the research."
And I won't even bother to list all the ethical rules violated by concocting and profiting from a phony disorder, as that might take all day. Frankly, I find it quite astounding that Maxine Aston hasn't yet been brought up on unprofessional conduct charges.