Psychology Textbook Receives Criticism for Making People with Autism “Sound Like Toddlers”

A well-known publishing company is under fire after releasing an inaccurate psychology textbook that is “deeply offensive to autistic people” due to its misleading word choices.

The A-Level Psychology Revision, published by Pearson, is accused of making people with autism sound “like toddlers,” because it talks about them having “tantrums” instead of “meltdowns.”

The book reportedly claims that people with autism “like to stick to the same routine, and little changes may trigger tantrums.”

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According to the National Autistic Society, “A meltdown is not a tantrum. It is an intense response to an overwhelming situation.” The organization called Pearson’s book “misleading” and urged the publisher to correct the mistakes.

“It makes us sound like toddlers,” says George, a young man who has autism and is studying A-level psychology. “If that’s how they describe meltdowns, what other inaccuracies are there going to be? Calling it ‘tantrum’ feels condescending.”

Tom Purser, Head of Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, agrees, saying, “It’s really disappointing to see this misleading phrase in an A-level textbook.”

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Purser also adds that a meltdown occurs when “someone becomes completely overwhelmed” by a situation and lose control of their behavior. “They may shout, scream or lash out,” he says. “To call it a ‘tantrum’ suggests that this reaction is naughty, over the top, or even intentional, which is simply not true and deeply offensive to autistic people and their families.”

Pearson has said they will conduct a review into the accuracy of the book in order to “urgently” change anything that may be misleading or insulting.

Photo: Adobe Stock/nagornyi

“We are committed to ensuring our products are held to the highest standards and will be consulting with an independent expert to help us conduct an immediate review,” they said in a statement.

The revision guide is a textbook meant to be used by students studying for the AQA exams in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. As of yet, however, the book has not been approved by the AQA Exam Board for this purpose.

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