Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Susan Moreno of MAAP, Cassandra Cult Recruiter

Now that the hate group FAAAS has been quite thoroughly exposed on numerous Internet sites with regard to its nasty claim that autistics are unfit for family life, there hasn't been much obvious activity from its supporters in recent months. Unfortunately, that does not mean Cassandra adherents in the United States have come to their senses; it simply means that their propaganda efforts have gone underground, so to speak.

A conference entitled Knowledge is Power will be presented on October 10-11 in Kansas City by MAAP Services and the Autism Asperger Publishing Company. One of the scheduled activities is a "spouse workshop" by Susan Moreno, director of MAAP, and consultant Julie Donnelly. Autistic individuals will be excluded from this workshop, according to its description, so that "candid discussions" can take place.

Presumably Ms. Moreno thought that by avoiding any mention of Cassandra or Maxine Aston or FAAAS in the conference materials, she could entice unsuspecting spouses to sit through a presentation of their repulsive ideology, while also flying under the bloggers' radar. However, as we all know, a person's associations can be quickly searched with a few keystrokes. Take a look at this page on the FAAAS website detailing the content of a previous Moreno-led spouse workshop (as usual, it's a partial URL because I don't give active links to their hate site).


After claiming that autistic people commonly cause our spouses to suffer "embarrassment and isolation," the description of the previous workshop went on to state explicitly that it was a Cassandra presentation:

Cassandra Syndrome, Cassandra Affective Disorder or the Cassandra Phenomenon was named to describe the symptoms of stress (low self esteem, depression, anxiety, often seen in partners of individuals with an autism spectrum disorder. Other symptoms partners may experience include lethargy, loss of libido, changes in mood and a weaken immune system. CAD was named after a mythical princess who was granted the gift of prophecy but cursed with the fact that no one would believe her even though she was right. Experts such as Maxine Aston feel it is brought on by emotional deprivation.

After highlighting the above issues in the presentation successful techniques and strategies to address these issues will be presented…

I've noticed that recruiters for the Cassandra cult always follow the same basic script. First, they lure non-spectrum partners into relationship workshops from which the autistic partner is excluded; after that, they lead a group whinefest complaining about all the faults, real and imagined, of autistic partners; and then they finish the presentation with a hard sell for Cassandra books and future workshops, which they claim are absolutely essential to recovering from the hideous depression and misery caused by living with an autistic partner. Never mind the pesky little detail that their marks weren't feeling particularly depressed or miserable before the Cassandra gang got them in its clutches.

This is pretty much the same modus operandi followed by exploitative cults of all sorts. Cult indoctrination tactics generally begin with deception of the potential recruit, such as by describing a workshop or other presentation in very bland and innocuous terms, so that he or she doesn't suspect there is anything out of the ordinary going on. The next step is isolating the person from family members, such as by holding an event in an out-of-the-way location where telephone use is not allowed, or (as with Susan Moreno's workshop) by specifying that family members may not attend. The group leader then encourages recruits to vent about their problems, for which the cult's ideology is presented as the only real solution, while becoming increasingly emotional about it. Because of the social pressure to agree with the group, the highly charged emotional language, and the isolation from family, the recruits end up being much more vulnerable to the cult's sales pitch than they might otherwise have been.

The way to counteract such groups' influence is, of course, to shine a very bright spotlight on their devious schemes and make those cockroaches go scuttling for cover. To any of my readers who might have been thinking about attending the conference, I suggest that you stay away; MAAP doesn't deserve a penny of your money. If you have a friend or family member who is considering going, warn them about the spouse workshop. And if you have already registered or have a specific reason to attend, well, then, you may want to stop by the spouse workshop for a few minutes and give Susan Moreno and Julie Donnelly some candid discussions of quite another sort.

After all… knowledge is power.

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  • Thanks - I had planned to attend MAAP but certainly will not now!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:12 AM  

  • Gah!

    By Blogger Attila The Mom, at 11:17 AM  

  • "Autistic individuals will be excluded from this workshop, according to its description, so that 'candid discussions' can take place."

    You can bet your arse that - if we did something that kept so-called 'normal' people out, we'd be called all the bastards under the sun for it; yet they have to reserve the right to be so fucking exclusivist! Shitting Jesus!

    Fucking hypocrites.

    And they call Aston a fucking expert????

    "Experts such as Maxine Aston feel it is brought on by emotional deprivation."

    She's a fucking expert in nothing. She has no autism-specialist training; she hasn't publish in a peer-reviewed journal on anything she's 'discovered'... and I can tell you now, she wouldn't get past the first fucking hurdle at Good Autism Practice with her crap 'research'.

    So we should add MAAP to our blacklist, alongside FAAAS and ASPIA? Because I bloody think so.

    How long before all our supposed 'advocacy' organisations jump on the fucking bandwagon?

    Aston is the main culprit here and maybe a shitload of us should sign a serious letter to the BACP (or whatever professional organisation she belongs to). She's set off a right ball of shite to smear us with.

    By Blogger David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction), at 12:36 PM  

  • Any "worskhops" or conferences that exclude autistic voices when discussing autism is not acceptable. I say this as the mother to three on the spectrum. I believe that support groups for parents should be inclusive, as well. If parents absolutely "need" to negatively vent and spew and go on about how bad things are, then they should do that in a therapeutic environment one on one. Otherwise you end up with sites like AoA.

    By Blogger KWombles, at 3:10 PM  

  • What David said makes sense to me.

    Maybe I'm missing something but it seems to me they are using as a selling point that they explore with these women what issues, troubled past, etc. led them to choose a man that was unable or unwilling to meet their emotional needs before knowing anything about the man. How could they prevent bashing the partner when they start with that? There's no real introspection there.

    It's not like they are saying these women are co-dependent. They are completely dependent on defining the partner as the source of the current problem. How can you turn that into a better relationship?

    What would we do if we were at such a meeting? Validate what they described was our failure so that we could empower the women to move on???? That's not a therapy session, that's a lynch mob....like having a cannibal invite you to dinner.

    By Blogger Ed, at 3:48 PM  

  • and I just read you link about the cult indoctrination ABFH. That seems to fit real well with this.

    By Blogger Ed, at 4:01 PM  

  • Ed says: Maybe I'm missing something but it seems to me they are using as a selling point that they explore with these women what issues, troubled past, etc. led them to choose a man that was unable or unwilling to meet their emotional needs before knowing anything about the man. How could they prevent bashing the partner when they start with that? There's no real introspection there.
    There could be many reasons to explain that a woman could be attracted to AS individuals or vice versa (honesty, differences of being, trust, logic etc). The relations NT-AS people establish is not very different to that of a NT relationships in that many couples do get to know each others as the relationship evolve, with time. Individuals can evolve differently too and no longer feel in tune or to complement each others. Often there is a fracture when children come, or when difficulties arise because with tensions, if both partners cannot pull their weight equally, sorting out the issues, it usually lead to frictions. The difficulties that are more specific to an AS-NT couple relate to the fact the the AS person might not pick up sign of distress or discomfort/ imbalances and might not be able intuitively to rebalance the relationship as other couples sort of do all the time. The, both partners, not just one, tend to feel alone and isolated in that couple.

    I think there are ways to help with this when one can move away from feeling responsible or accusative of the other for a sort of failure, when one understands and finds clearer ways to communicates needs. One must also stress that the needs of both partners are rarely equal in a relationship and equally the needs change with time. A relationship is a hard thing to establish and maintain in full status of happiness. Whilst I also disagree with much of what Aston says, I would think that, it is equally unhelpful to ignore or deny issues specifically encountered in AS-NT. Because putting a blind eye to problems rarely help individuals.

    By Blogger SM69, at 4:10 PM  

  • SM69,

    But the marketing of the Cassandra product isn't based on an equal responsibility at all. It begins with the premise that the autistic is the cause of the imbalance.

    The faults of the autistic's are not only assumed based simply on the fact that they are autistic but the therapy is based on the burden being placed on the other person rather than the client.

    This along with the negative stereotyping from the media that now fuels the treatments for autism, there is nothing fair and balanced about such an approach.

    By Blogger Ed, at 4:27 PM  

  • Yes, I agree, I very dislike what Aston says too- Her book made me so "angry" that I could not read through it in full. There were so many contradictions and it was very bias. She reported some interesting aspects without knowing the potential importance of her observations, but anyway, there was insufficient size in her group samples to know if this was real or not. These related to differences in perceptions of problems and needs between AS female and SD male.

    The point I was making though, irrespectively of what she says, is that there are specific difficulties to the AS-NT couple and there are difficulties which are common to any other couple too, in top of these. To sort them out, implies some recognition (as opposed to denying/blinding), moving away from blame accusation and a desire to make it work. I am not saying anything other than common sense I think, I am not pretending to have answers to these solutions.

    By Blogger SM69, at 4:38 PM  

  • then that makes sense.

    At this point I think anyone sorting out relationship problems that involves an autistic person would need to have a way of defining what they believed autism to be that was radically different than the common model before they could be helpful.

    Otherwise I would be concerned that they would naturally gravitate towards all the misconceptions that are so prevalent before the autistic person would be seen objectively.

    It doesn't help for one party in a relationship to begin as the unfairly suspected problem more than the other. With this Casandra therapy, that looks to be how it's judged.

    By Blogger Ed, at 5:03 PM  

  • This is a true story, I am not making this up:

    I know an older woman from college who began talking to me one day. I had avoided her for about a year and then one day she began talking to me because I told her I had autism.

    She suspected that something was "wrong" with her current boyfriend. She said,

    "He doesn't seem to care about my feelings."

    "It's making me really upset and depressed that he doesn't care."

    "Is he a narcissist or what? All he really seems to care about is himself."

    "He just can't meet my emotional needs. I've never been with a man like this before."

    "He is so obsessed with going to the gym and with his health."

    "I have to tell him to hug me."

    "He lacks empathy. I have to TELL him what to do because otherwise he doesn't know."

    She then read about Asperger's and finally discovered what he had. He got an official diagnosis and they both finally got the help that they needed. She attended special groups for people who loved other people with ASDs because she couldn't cope on her own. "I'm so glad these people exist," she said, "because they gave me so much help and information about how my boyfriend and I can live happy lives together."

    So, I find it hard to believe that women like these are making all of this up and are part of a "cult" since I know of one, personally, that went through exactly what so many of you claim doesn't exist.

    By Blogger Stephanie Lynn Keil, at 7:23 PM  

  • I don't want to sound like a chauvenist here, but this concept of Cassandra seems to eminate from the idea that a female can not function without emotional support. I find that hard to believe to be honest. Oh sure - it's important. But it boils back to the two way street situation. To get emotional support you have to give it first - and it works both ways. The concept of Cassandra assumes it's a one way street that the Autistic male can't fulfil (which of course is a crock of a stereotype).

    Supporting the concept of Cassandra in my book is the same as supporting extremist female rights. What I mean by that is females like Germaine Greer going way too far on the subject to the point of denying the rights of males outright.

    I've never forgiven Greer for dissing Steve Irwin's death as "the wildlife fights back" (not that it's relevant to the topic - but Greer is a stupid bitch).

    By Blogger Timelord, at 7:29 PM  

  • Timelord, I do think you're starting to sound like a chauvinist, frankly. Please do not use "bitch" as an insult on my blog. I've explained here why I use it as part of my net nickname.

    Stephanie, you are correct that the Cassandra groups advise their members to stay with their partners, even while bashing their partners in the nastiest terms. They do this to keep their members buying their products and emotionally dependent on them. Follow my link on cult indoctrination for an explanation of how cults induce dependency in their members.

    By Blogger abfh, at 8:19 PM  

  • "Timelord, I do think you're starting to sound like a chauvinist, frankly. Please do not use "bitch" as an insult on my blog."

    Actually... I agree with ABFH....

    Not to say that you can't do it on your own!

    But please... not here. ABFH is on our side, and it's not good to piss her off.

    We love ABFH - we do our best to not piss her off. Because we appreciate her support. Period.

    Cheers, Phil... whatever one thinks of Greer... this is ABFH's turf... you know?

    By Blogger David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction), at 9:44 PM  

  • From Timelord:
    ...the idea that a female can not function without emotional support. I find that hard to believe to be honest.

    Please let me say that a woman cannot function without emotion indeed!

    But a woman can function with emotions that are mediated differently, or can function when finding complementary emotions (e.g. children, art, internet...) to fulfill that essential need. I think this is true of both men and women and I would say it is also true of those with AS.

    The issues is more than the communication of emotions is not such an easy thing between NT- AS partners because the modalities of interest, focus, and means of communication are different. Same is true of the interest for the other's emotional status. I would also like to say that these problems are seen in NT couples too, in fact this is mostly the main reasons for a breaking up of a relationship. Emotions are what makes people stick together for a long time and through hardship because emotions enable a bridge to form across a difference of status or difference in term of absolute value. Emotions need to be entertained, maintained, stimulated, and this is usually an intuitive constant work amongst partners. A relationship is not just a contract that says something like, you are good at this, you do it whilst I bring this to the relationship. It is much more than that, and what is more are the emotions that are shared.

    The solutions for an AS/NT couple is to understand in which way they differ and what are each respective needs. Then find almost like "augmentative" ways to bring these needs to the attention of the other partner and "augmentative" ways to teach each partner to provide the needs the other has. That implies a mutual interest to make a relationship work and decode its mystery. If there is no strong motivator attached to the relationship and there is no emotions, well, unlikely it will last unless both partners have zero need for doing anything but "parallel play" involved in a rather "one dimension only" purely pragmatic relationship.

    By Blogger SM69, at 3:01 AM  

  • "I know an older woman from college who began talking to me one day. I had avoided her for about a year and then one day she began talking to me because I told her I had autism."

    Stephanie, you have written that you only attended an internet college and took correspondence courses. I'm confused.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:10 AM  

  • Anon, if you're suggesting that Stephanie was making up her story, I don't think so. What she described is exactly how the Cassandra groups operate. First they find a woman who is annoyed because her boyfriend/husband is doing things like not hugging her often enough and spending more time at the gym than she would like (which, of course, millions of guys do). Then they convince the woman that these are "Asperger symptoms," that her partner lacks empathy and doesn't care about her feelings, and that she can't cope on her own and needs the group for emotional support.

    I'd bet real money that this woman's boyfriend does not have an official diagnosis, but just has an "assessment" from an unqualified Cassandra counselor. Quite possibly over the telephone.

    By Blogger abfh, at 6:50 AM  

  • I completely forgot about the ban on the "B" word, ABFH! Please accept my apologies.

    SM69 pretty much covered what I said with a better explanation of what was essentially the same thing even though it might not look it.

    By Blogger Timelord, at 7:47 AM  

  • I like to hug my wife alot. This is more proof the Cassandra theory is a load of crap.

    By Blogger Cube Demon, at 8:17 AM  

  • I've got stronger evidence than that, Cube Demon. What about the millions of adult autistics who are married and in relationship? And a lot of them didn't get labeled with autism/Asperger's syndrome when they were young, so those people weren't "normalized" as children. Bottom line is that there are plenty of autistic adults who got girlfriends without being made "indistinguishable from their peers."

    By Anonymous Sadderbutwisergirl, at 3:47 PM  

  • @Stephanie:
    "So, I find it hard to believe that women like these are making all of this up and are part of a 'cult' since I know of one, personally, who went through exactly what so many of you claim doesn't exist."

    One crucial difference between what you describe and the Cassandra-syndrome groups is that, though the wife was the one to notice the problem and seek help intially, the husband was ultimately included in the counseling sessions. You said they both got the help they needed to make their relationship work. That's great! I don't think anybody here would oppose that.

    Personally, I also would have no problem with disgruntled partners of autistic people (or, really, people dissatisfied with any relationship, AS-NT or not) going to counseling, deciding the relationship was hopeless, and making a clean break and getting on with their lives. (This may not be true for everyone on this site, depending what they think about divorce, or about how much work people should put into fixing a troubled relationship. But whatever; honest people can disagree on that one).

    There are three things that I don't like about the Cassandra workshops. I don't like that they deliberately exclude the autistic partner, and I don't like that they encourage the group members to blame everything that's wrong with the relationship on the absent, autistic (and usually male) half of it.

    It just doesn't seem like an honest attempt to see things clearly or to fix whatever problems there may be; like ABFH says, it's a racket that simultaneously breeds, and feeds off of, these women's marital woes.

    Plus --- the third thing I don't like --- the Cassandra story-line makes it out to be an inherent property of autistic people in relationships with NTs that we will isolate them and starve them emotionally. I don't think that's categorically true.

    I believe --- and have a ton of sympathy for! --- NT women who do feel neglected in marriages to autistic men, though. Similarly, I feel sympathy for "football widows," workaholics' wives, people whose spouses are cheating on them, and everybody else suffering emotional deprivation. I just don't think that being autistic automatically means you are emotionally incompatible with anyone except another autistic. I think people are more variable than that, and I think that idea could do a lot of damage to those autistics who are trying to find a niche in the NT world.

    By Blogger Lindsay, at 8:45 PM  

  • This is true SBWG. Don't forget about aspie women with NT men as well.

    One aspie on wrongplanet.net named shadow said he had a wife with Narcisstic personality disorder who is a part of the aspartners group.

    She tried to make him something he was not.

    In the aspartners groups I believe they're suffering from narccistic supply deficiency.


    By Blogger Cube Demon, at 10:13 PM  

  • There are also queer aspies of every variety. My girlfriend is highly amused by this Cassandra nonsense--both because it's ridiculous, and because she's a classics major. She finds the symbolism to be questionable at best.

    By Anonymous Ali, at 5:09 AM  

  • Lindsay, although Cassandra counselors routinely exclude autistic and purportedly autistic partners from their workshops, they will sometimes (for an additional fee, of course) have a group member bring her boyfriend or husband for separate relationship counseling sessions, where he is given advice on how to be a good little doormat and meet all the demands that she makes on him. So the fact that the guy in Stephanie's story got "help" does not necessarily mean it wasn't a Cassandra group.

    Ali, I agree with your girlfriend that these groups have a poor understanding of the classical myth. Lindsay wrote a post earlier this summer about how their Cassandra and Apollo don't match the originals at all.

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:53 AM  

  • @abfh: I re-read that post and those last few words "knowledge is power" made me think of the 1984 Party slogan "Ignorance is Strength." The meaning is supposed to be that the more intelligent you are, the less sane you are. Here is my understanding of it. If you are ignorant about a certain subject, it endows you with strength against the other person and his or her opinions and knowledge. Thus, ignorance is strength against tolerance. Maybe this is why the Cassandra groups are still going strong.

    By Anonymous Sadderbutwisergirl, at 5:31 PM  

  • *shakes head*

    If SBWG is right that's a sad indictment on world attitudes and shows just how far away we are from being accepted as human beings instead of......you know all the names we get called.

    Ignorance is not strength. It's one of the biggest weaknesses of all.

    By Blogger Timelord, at 6:29 PM  

  • "*shakes head*

    If SBWG is right that's a sad indictment on world attitudes and shows just how far away we are from being accepted as human beings instead of......you know all the names we get called.

    Ignorance is not strength. It's one of the biggest weaknesses of all."

    What if one's weakness can become one's strength. That is my interpretation of "Ignorance is Strength."

    By Blogger Cube Demon, at 5:55 PM  

  • I think the fault lies as much with the NT women as with the AS male -- I know plenty of NT women with NT male partners who have many of the same complaints. They play emotional games, they manipulate, they set up situations as "tests" to see whether their partner "loves [them] enough" (translation: can their partner read their mind?)...a lot of women seem to like the attention this conflict brings them. They're hypernarcissistic -- absolutely everything is about their "emotional needs", with the assumption that their partner has none, or that his are invalid, because he's male. AS partners don't stand a chance with women like that.

    I know not all NT women are like that, but the things I, as an aspie woman, have been told by NT women that I should be doing in relationships are where I've drawn those conclusions from.

    I'm in an aspie-NT marriage, and while I won't ever pretend that there aren't issues, or that it doesn't require work, so far as I can tell, so do NT-NT relationships. One of the very first things we learned is something many of our NT acquaintances in relationships haven't figured out yet -- your partner can't read your mind, so if something is wrong you have to actually discuss it, in a respectful manner. I also find it extremely difficult to believe you could date and marry someone without knowing ahead of time that such communication issues exist. I'm all for women's rights, but with rights come women's responsibilities -- including the responsibility to make adult relationship choices based on who our partners are, and not who we think we could goad them into being with enough nagging. Working together to solve a problem that comes up in the course of a relationship, with or without mediation, is an adult way of handling it. Blaming everything on one's partner and demanding they change everything about who they are, with no give and take, is childish, whether one involves "professionals" or not. I don't think these women have Cassandra anything. I think they have never gotten past the adolescent mindset that the world and everything in it revolves around them.

    By Anonymous Angela, at 12:00 PM  

  • Weakness can never become a strength, Cube Demon. To be strong you have to overcome weakness. It's not possible otherwise.

    By Blogger Timelord, at 8:39 AM  

  • @Angela: I can see what you mean by that stuff about women needing to be more considerate of men. That viewpoint is strengthened through popular TV shows often show female adolescents and adults as the main characters. Every time there is a relationship conflict of any kind, everything is set up to make it look like the male partner is clueless and insensitive to his partner's needs. When really, if you watch only the parts of the show showing what the male partner knows, you can see that he doesn't really know anything and all the female partner is doing is giving hints to her situation or getting all angry at her partner. How is the male partner supposed to do anything if he only gets that from his partner? Men don't have the ability to read minds and so it would be unreasonable to expect such from them.

    By Anonymous Sadderbutwisergirl, at 10:21 PM  

  • SBWG, ABFH, Angela, Timelord and others

    This is an event that happened on the movie called "White men can't jump" and it's hard for me to grasp.

    In the motel room, Gloria, the main character's girlfriend, said she was thirsty. He got a cup, went to the bathroom sink, and filled her a glass of water.

    She went crazy on him. She did not actually want a glass of water. She wanted him to sympathize and empathize with her and say "me too."

    Here are my problems with it.

    1. What if he was not thirsty himself?

    2. How does sympathizing and empathizing without doing anything solve anything? Wouldn't she remain thiristier longer?

    3. What if she really was thirsty? How is he supposed to tell if she really wants water or just wants him sympathy?

    4. This does not make logical sense at all even with Twinkle's explanation.

    By Blogger Cube Demon, at 11:08 AM  

  • The thing that I don't get about CAD is that it seems far more likely that an autistic partner wouldn't be listened to over an NT one. I actually ran into this stuff when I was having trouble with my mom. She was allowed to have so much power over me even though I was an adult and when I woke up to the fact that she was emotionally abusive and overly controlling, I started having doubts about whether or not anyone would listen to me. I don't remember how I first ran into CAD, but I thought, "Yeah, I kind of feel like Cassandra and nobody's listening to me..." but when I started researching it and realized what it really was, I was utterly horrified.

    It did wind up getting to the point where she did something that scared me so damn much, I had to make a few frantic phone calls to one of my case workers and by that time, it was blatantly obvious to her that my mom was way overstepping her boundaries and I got support getting the hell out of there.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:01 PM  

  • Cube Demon, I don't think you understood Twinkles' explanation. It's not about practicality - it's about emotional connection. The lack of it is what caused the girl to scream.

    By Blogger Timelord, at 7:57 AM  

  • "Cube Demon, I don't think you understood Twinkles' explanation. It's not about practicality - it's about emotional connection. The lack of it is what caused the girl to scream."

    Thanks Timelord. In my mind, I want to know what to do for them. I want to fix their situation.

    I think I know what you're saying. Sometimes all I am needed for at that moment is just to be a sounding board meaning they just want to vent.

    I'm different. Once the problem is solved it's out of my mind. I don't worry about it anymore and if I have any depression or anxiety towards it it's gone.

    By Blogger Cube Demon, at 11:14 AM  

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