As Janneke van Bockel hears that her daughter has Asperger, strangely enough she feels relieved. Now she finally understands why her child doesn’t grow up according to the books. But then her uncertainty increases. For, how can she help her child? What are the demands on her family? And how will she explain to outsiders that her daughter is smart and dominant, but not poorly raised?

Janneke van Bockel works as a parenting expert from her company MetaMama and is the mother of two daughters. Since July 2006, she’s writing a weblog, under the pseudonym IJskastmoeder (Refrigerator mom), which resulted in the book IJskastmoeder (Lannoo, 2009). She is also the author of Uitvindboek voor ouders (Inventor book for parents) about the psychology of parenting (Humm Publishing, 2014). Furthermore, she is the initiator of the yearly Dutch ‘Days of Treats for parents with a child with autism’ and the director of the Ovaal Foundation

Parts of Refrigerator Mom, life with a child with autism are translated* now.
Bike ride

(*Thanks to Penny Holloway, Ann Colt and Tijs Krammer for their great help!)

About the author
I am a Dutch parenting expert, what I do is that I coach parents with difficulties concerning parenthood and next to that I think, write and speech about the perspective of parents. I’m also a mother of two daugthers and my eldest has autism, Asperger.

When my eldest got her diagnosis she was 6,5 years old. She was – and is – not like the stereotypical autistic person I had in mind when I first heard about autism. First, she is a girl. Almost every story is about boys, that is the first difference. Second she doesn’t like dinosaurs or trains, nor does she rock back and forth or flap her hands. She looks people straight in the eye, is extravert, intelligent and verbally gifted. So when you see her you will not immediately think she is autistic. When people asked me how do you recognize your daughter’s autism, I was often lost for words. How to briefly describe what her autism looks like? Even now that is difficult to tell. And at the schoolyard or in a chat with the neighbour you mostly don’t have half an hour…

I thought a lot of parents should have these difficulties and in an attempt to make things clear, in the first place for myself but due to my former profession as documentary producer, I also wanted to mean something for other parents. So I started to write a weblog. And I used the nickname IJskastmoeder – Refrigerator Mom which later became the title of my book about how it is to raise a child with autisme from the perspective of parents.

Let me explain my weird nickname. The terms refrigerator mother and refrigerator parents were coined around 1950 as a label for mothers and parents of children diagnosed with autism or schizophrenia. When Leo Kanner first identified autism in 1943, he thought he noticed a lack of warmth among the parents of autistic children. Parents, in that time particularly mothers as they were the primary caregivers, were often blamed for their children’s atypical behaviour. Current research indicates that genetic factors predominate in the cause of autism This Refrigerator Mom Theory caused a lot of pain and frustration amongst parents for years. Actually the parents had looked closely to their children and gave them what they needed; peace, stability, a calm harbour while their children were often overwhelmed by the world. They did well and shouldn’t be blamed. So I named myself Refrigerator Mom as a tribute to all these brave parents.

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