Interview with John Haderlein


Before reading this blog, this is John Haderlein’s personal view and his opinion. We have to respect, learn and accept other individuals views.

This short film highlights the struggles, misunderstanding and frustration of a mother seeking for her son to be “cured” of her son’s challenging behaviour and needing a solution to help him. She was trying to do her best, but in this case she lost her son through exorcism.

It’s not disrespecting other beliefs or practices, but allowing us to think before judging when one sees a child or adult acting inappropriately with a church or place of worship setting. Those who witness a meltdown will normally misunderstand or prejudge   something else as in this case.  “Junior” had sensory issues, he didn’t like to be touched and for those who understand what Autism is… Alot of educating, understanding and making everyone aware of their child or adults needs.

Society needs to embrace, respect and education to all lengths. Making sure everyone knows FACTS and not trial and error. When someone tells you that their child has Autism or they are on the Spectrum. Be honest and ask questions, so to help the individual and family….. We will use Autism Society a charity that are based in America to pinpoint, some of what he discusses.

Junior died in 2003, the DVD of “Junior – The Terrance Cottrell Story” was released in 2006. The question we have to ask ourselves and for those who have watched this film. Has things changed a great deal in 2014?

We need to be able to identify, recognise and support those who follow a faith. Autism affects all communities.


What is your connection to Autism?

My son, Eric, was born on June 5, 1996.  At 30 months, he was not speaking, and so a pediatrician recommended a screening.  The screening revealed signs of Autism.  We secured a diagnosis of “Autism and PDD/NOS” (pervasive development delay, not otherwise specified), and enrolled him in special education classes at 36 months (when he turned 3 years old).



How old is your son?

Eric is now 17 years old.


What was your understanding about Autism and do you think in 2014, there has been a great change than before?

When I was young, disability was little understood.  I first heard the term “Autism” in a college class.  It was pretty undefined, but I remembered it was really bad and that the child was in his own world – sort of on “auto pilot”.  Now that Autism is better screened, with 1 in 121 in the US being diagnosed with Autism, this disability is becoming more accepted.  New research has debunked prior scientific theories of bad mothering (in the 1960s Dr. Bruno Bettleheim, a University of Chicago professor researching Autistic children, blamed their Autism on cold, unfeeling “Refrigerator Mothers” – the name of another American documentary about Autism).


Do you think enough is being done for those with Autism and Aspergers?



Please explain the difference between a Neurotypical (NT) with challenging behaviour and challenging behaviour linked to Autism as there is so much misunderstanding and confusion amongst many parents and professionals that seem to overlook the condition?

People hear an autistic child scream or witness a full meltdown in public, and immediately blame the parent for not having control over their child, or conclude that the child is spoiled.   People don’t really want to know that there is brain imbalance or brain damage to explain these behaviors.  They just want the problem to go away, or they want to blame or attack the child or his parent(s).


What is failing those living, caring or educating those with Autism?

The Educational System.  Society’s views traditionally, although American mega-charities like “Autism Speaks” are trying to educate and inform people about what autism is, and is not, through the mass media of television, internet, etc.

“My own experiences before and after my son’s diagnosis was frustrating as support or understanding was based around the neurotypical way of thinking. He was extremely hard to manage, he wouldn’t listen, over hyperactive and impulsive behaviour and he just seem to get worse.  Nathaniel was selective to who he would listen to which misjudged and saw in eyes of other persons, he was misunderstood and just needed a firm talking to.

I clearly understand more now, that he was having a sensory overload and it was exactly his way of dealing with it. This was demonstrated by him blocking his ears, screaming, kicking, punching, running off, pushing or acting inappropriately, he would get worse when he was being touched or when in a loud and noisy environment.  Services were just not for him. He was not spoilt or having his own way. He was feeling discomfort, which was causing unnecessary pain and stress to him that I was not aware of. Now he is older he can tell me, what and how he feels, but sometimes I have to reassess a place or avoid him going as I can foresee what may happen. Despite negative comments whether going to church or anywhere.


Do you think that there is a stigma attached to when churchgoers sees a child misbehaving inappropriately?

Yes, more awareness is needed throughout all faith groups; it’s just not fair on any individual that has Autism or Aspergers.


What advice would you give, if the Church were not aware about Autism and Aspergers?

Read. Learn. Ask questions.  Get involved.  Don’t judge until you understand.


Please tell me more about what led to the documentary about Terrance Cottrell?

My son’s Autism led me to run a local chapter of the Autism Society of America.   As president of this local chapter, I became more keenly aware of bad things happening to Autistic children.  One died being tasered by police in Chicago’s suburban Des Plaines, Illinois.  Terrance Cottrell was the victim of a botched exorcism.  “Junior’s” case was mentioned on the American TV show, “Law and Order”, and the actual trial was broadcast on “Court TV”, as it was a sensational story (assumedly, because of the barbaric exorcism component).


Did this change the view of others about Autism?

Yes.  It does not seem necessary to have to tell people that Autism is a developmental disability, brain damage on a microscopic level, that is a processing dysfunction severely limiting socialization and communication.   But it was necessary, as some people still believe that disability is the product of demonic possession, and therefore a horrific exorcism would cure that.  What???   Autism is the product of sin?   What???  Are they mad?!?!??!


What are lessons learnt?

Don’t exorcise children.  Pray for them. Work with them.  Love your kids.  And how can we make a difference?  Inform, educate. Learn.


What suggestions can you give for those who may need to learn about Autism and Faith Groups?

Inform, educate. Learn.


As the interview was based around ‘Junior and the tragic circumstances leading to his death’, such stories need to be told to highlight how misinformation and lack of understanding about Autism can go wrong.


What advice can be given to anyone that attends a faith group, who may witness a child or adult who shows social challenging behavior?

As the father (Terrance Cottrell, Sr. says at the very end of the film (get to know your kid), as the police captain encouraged (learn everything you can about Autism).  Don’t rely on common knowledge.   Some people think autistic people are crazy – having a mental illness.  They are not.  Some people think they are possessed.  They are not.  Some people blame the moms. It’s not their fault.


What are you doing now?

Just raising my son.  As an attorney, I have been securing court-ordered guardianships so parents of autistic children can continue to assist their children after they turn 18 (in the US, one is considered to be an adult at 18, unless of court of law rules otherwise).   A guardianship hearing is held to determine whether a person is able to manage his or her own medical and financial affairs.  If they are not, the parent can become their legal guardian.


To find out more information about John Haderlein, Contact: or Wesbite:

Thank you to John Haderlein for taking time out to answer my questions and highlighting such a delicate situation.

For more information about A2ndvoice find us on Facebook: A2ndVoice Autism Support Group Tooting or check out website:


©2014 Venessa Bobb


Published by Venessa Bobb

Mother of 3, raising awareness about Autism and Abuse. Two of my youngest teenagers (16 and 19) both have autism and ADHD. The youngest has Benign Rolandic Epilepsy and my oldest daughter (21) has Moderate Language Difficulties and has a 4 year old son. Currently Branch Officer for Lambeth Branch for the National Autistic Society, Member of the Advisory Group for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, Member of the NHS England and NHS Improvement Parent Participation Forum, volunteer for Cassandra Centre and Groomsafe

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