Brian Sullivan

A new study suggests a trend toward developing hyperactivity among typically developing elementary-school-aged siblings of autistic preschoolers, reports Jim Barlow in Medical News Today. The study suports belief that mothers of young, autistic children experience more depression and stress than mothers with typically developing children.

While the impact on older siblings was not statistically significant, the trend may indicate the presence of symptoms associated with broader observable autism characteristics seen in previous studies, states Professor Laura Lee McIntyre, director of the University of Oregon's school psychology program.
The study was published in the March issue of the journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.

Previous research has had mixed results, but many suggest that families dealing with autism, especially siblings of an autistic child, also experience autism like symptom including widespread abnormalities of social interactions, communication and behavior.

The study compared control and experimental groups whose ages, education and socioeconomic situations were virtually identical. Twenty families had a preschooler (ages 2-5 years old) diagnosed with autism and a typically developing older elementary school sibling (6-10); the control group of 23 families did not have an autistic child. Older children with diagnosed learning or mental disabilities were excluded.

"We know there are risk factors, but we don't know if they result from having a child with autism, or if there are genetic predispositions as part of the broader autism picture," McIntyre said. "Are these difficulties the result of child-rearing challenges, or are they negatively impacted because of shared genetic risks? Our sample was very clean, and that's good for science but not necessarily as good for generalizing our findings, but I'm confident with the results we found in this particular sample."

McIntyre, while a professor at Syracuse University, and her doctoral student Nicole Quintero studied families chosen in New York. They looked closely at sibling adjustments, involving social, behavioral and academic performance as recorded by both parents and teachers, and at the well- being of the mothers, whose average age was 36 and 94-95 percent of whom were married. The median age of older siblings was seven and most were first- or second-graders.

"Contrary to what has been found by many researchers, we found that older siblings were pretty well adjusted, with no significant differences in parent-reported or teacher-reported social skills," said McIntyre, who joined the UO's department of special education and clinical sciences in 2009. "These are all typically developing kids."

Teachers, however, reported slightly more behavioral problems for the siblings of children with autism than control siblings. "There was a trend toward significance," she said.

The problems resembled hyperactivity but not at levels generally attributed to attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Teacher reports noted that these children exhibited slightly more fidgeting, movement and attention problems.

"Children with siblings with autism may be experiencing some sub-clinical symptoms of hyperactivity or attention problems," noted McIntyre, an affiliate of the UO's Center for Excellence and Developmental Disabilities, Education, Research and Service. "Parents didn't report seeing such things at home. Teachers see these children in a more structured environment. Siblings of children with autism may be at heightened risk for developing problems, potentially over time."

Siblings of children with autism probably should be watched with appropriate academic supports in place, she said. "Our findings are rather positive overall, but these kids should be on our radar screens. These kids may start school OK, at least those from healthy families, but they may demonstrate difficulties over time. However, it has been shown that around 30 percent of siblings of autistic children have some associated difficulties in behavior, learning or development."

The finding that moms with children with autism were more stressed and depressed in comparison to moms of typically developing preschool children "was not surprising at all," McIntyre said. "That finding is robust in existing literature, so even though this sample involves highly organized, motivated and willing mothers, in comparison to other moms with two or more children, they are reporting more stress and more depression."

Mothers of autistic children, she added, need assistance for day-to-day child-rearing activities to give them some time to be individuals. As part of her research and clinical work at UO's nationally recognized Child and Family Center, she is looking at interventions that support parents and help kids with their daily living skills and behavior management.

The research was partially funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Quintero is now a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Institute on Disability and Human Development.
Brian Sullivan


“One of the most striking and surprising things I observed among traditional Hindus was how bright, happy, and psychologically healthy their children are” said American Robert A.Johnson, a Jungian analyst who lived in both India and Japan.

“ Children in Hindu families are not neurotic; they are not torn within themselves as so many Western children are. They are bathed constantly in human affection, and they sense a peaceful flow of affection between their mother and father.

They sense the stability, the enduring quality of their family. Their parents are commited permanently; they don’t hear their parents asking themselves whether their marriage is “going to work out”; separation and divorce do not float as specters in the air”.

He is of course, describing the traditional Hindu family.

Here he contrasts the West – a West though that has made inroads into the sexual mores of India:

“Dr. Jung once said that medieval man lived by either-or, but that modern person cannot go off to a convent or the Himalayas exclusively to search for spirituality; nor can she /he pour herself/himself exclusively into the family, profession or practicality” said Johnson.

“It is a true task of a truly modern mind to endure both the spiritual and practical as the framework for the life.”

Of course, this more family oriented focus that balances both masculine and feminine dimensions of the psyche is not limited to Hinduism. It is found in torah and Quran, from Taoism to the Hawaiian Islands.

However, in say Islam and Christianity, as in other religions, masculine control of institutions easily crushes the spiritual soul of some.

We are always chasing something in the West and forget that the word for happiness comes from the Scandinavian hap which relates to luck.

“Happiness steams from the the root verb to happen, which implies that our happiness is what happens” wrote in He: Understanding Masculine Psychology.

“Simple people in less complicated parts of the world function in this manner and exhibit a happiness and tranquility that is a puzzle to us. How can peasant in India wich so little to be happy about be happy? Or how can the peon in Mexico, again with so little to be happy about, be as carefree as he appears?”

He criticizes what the calls the Western “misconceptions” of happiness as something external.

Johnson mentions that Alexis de Tocqueville, who came to the early USA to study its democracy.

de Tocqueville “said that we have a misleading idea at the very head of our Constitution: the pursuit of happiness. One cannot pursue happiness; if he does he obscures it. If he will proceed with the human task of life, the relocation of the center of gravity of the personality to something greater outside itself, happiness will be the outcome.”

The point is that it is already there – not waiting to be chased down.

In casing things down we risk being an archaeologist of the soul. In seeking the depth within, we risk partly destroying the very thing we seek to discover.

When it comes to marriage the external approach to love and happiness has Western couples looking in two different directions, neither seeking their united spiritual soul.

“One may view a marriage as two people standing back to back , each protecting the other in a particular way” wrote Johnson in She: Understanding Feminine Psychology. (She? Whenever I addressed someone as she my mother corrected me – “She is the cat’s mother”)

“When a marriage begins the partners are like two discrete circles overlapping a little. The division between the two is great and each has a specific task. As the marriage partners grow older, each learns a bit of other’s genius, and finally the two circles overlap more and more.”

Consider the spiritual direction of the feminine psyche:

“It is the feminine task to protect not only herself but her man and her family from the dangers of inner world; moods, inflations, excesses, vulnerabilities, and what used to be called possessions.

“There are the things a woman’s genius can manage much better that a man’s. Usually he has his own task in facing the outer world and keeping the family safe” he said.

“There is a particular danger in the modern attitude in which both people face the our world, both spend their time in outer things. This leaves their inner world unprotected and many dangers creep into the household through this unprotected quarter.”

It is for this reason I am concerned that Indian youth is, for the moment at least, bent on chasing Western freedom as sexual mores.

The dynamic masculine energy of the West seems al conquering.

The delicate flower of the sensitive soul is crushed waiting for an opportunity of regrowth.

Let us not forget the advice of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee:

“This is why the wisdom of the feminine is so important, because the feminine understands the dynamics of relationship, how to listen and be receptive” he said.

“Feminine consciousness is more attuned to the life of the body, and so knows the rhythms that belong to the cycles of life, rather than the systems imposed by will that are presently strangling our world. The feminine is more instinctively and naturally attuned to life, its patterns and powers. And feminine consciousness is less dominated by reason, more open to the mystery of the symbolic inner world. The feminine is vital in this work of awakening”

- Alchemy of Light: Working with the Primal Energies of Life

Perhaps this is part of the message of spirituality.

"And the Mother,

the prototype

of all existence,

is the Eternal Spirit,

full of beauty

and love."

- Kahlil Gibran

"The paradise is under the feet of mothers."

- Prophet Muhammad

The Valley of Spirit never dies. It is named the Mysterious Female. And the Doorway of the Mysterious Female is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang. It is there within us all the while; Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.

- Tao Te Ching 6

"God is never seen immaterially; and the vision of Him in woman is the most perfect of all."

- Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi

"I can see as clear as a daylight that the hour is coming when women will lead humanity to a higher evolution."

- Hazrat Inayat Khan's vision in the year 1914-18

"We have denied the spirit of the earth, and that spirit of the earth has to appear in woman. The meeting of the spirit of the earth and the spirit of the other world is one of the great moments that, I believe, will come in the future history of culture."

- Cecil Collins

He who has realized God ... perceives clearly that women are but so many aspects of the Divine Mother. He adores them all ... Women are, all of them, the veritable images of ?akti.

Do you know how a lover of God feels? His attitude is: "O God, Thou art the Master, and I am Thy servant. Thou art the Mother, and I am Thy child." Or again: "Thou art my Father and Mother. Thou art the Whole, and I am a part." - Sri Ramakrishna

O, Mother of the Universe, those who praise you by the words: Ambika, Jaganmayi and Maya, will obtain all.

- Kalika Purana

O humanity! ... revere the sacredness of the womb that bore you.

- The Quran, An-Nisa (The Woman) 4:1

Perhaps we can again reflect on Robert A. Johnson from hisbook We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love

So much of our lives is spent in a longing and a search – for what, we don’t know. So many of our ostensible “goals”, so many of the things we think we want, turn out to be the masks behind which our real desires hide; they are symbols for the actual values and qualities for which we hunger.

They are not reducible to physical or material things, not even to a physical person; they are psychological qualities; love, truth, honesty, loyalty, purpose – something we can feel is noble, precious, and worthy of our devotion. We try to reduce all this to something physical – a house, a car, a better job, or a human being – but it doesn’t work.

Without realizing it, we are searching the Sacred. And the sacred is not reducible to anything else.