A mid-century medical nightmare is revealed in David E. Simpson, J.J. Hanley and Gordon Quinn's Refrigerator Mothers. Autism is one of today's fastest growing disorders, affecting 1 in 500 people. It is now known to be a neurological condition, but from the 1950s through the 1970s the medical establishment mistakenly believed it had found the root cause of the disorder: poor mothering. Doctors presumed that the often obsessive behaviors of autistic children — rigid rituals, speech difficulty, self-isolation — stemmed from their mothers' emotional frigidity. Refrigerator Mothers explores the traumatic legacy of blame, guilt and self-doubt suffered by a generation of women branded "refrigerator mothers."
From death on the streets of Crown Heights to director Steven Spielberg's controversial visit to a predominantly black high school in East Oakland, the film resists simple analysis and treads provocatively on the fault lines of racial coalition and conflict.