4 Not So Typical Neurotypical Brothers – Does autism run in families?;

385d5_funny-pictures-cat-has-annoying-big-brotherIn 2011 The National institute of Mental Health reported a 19% chance of parents with children on the autism spectrum having subsequent children also on the spectrum. Upon reading this statistic I am full of psychopathic jealousy and rivalry towards my siblings moving swimmingly through their neuro-typical lives. The sort of jealousy that can only be experienced by the youngest of the sibling pact, as you remember all those times you watched on with powerlessness as you older brother stole the chocolate you had been saving for a special occasion and just inanely grinned when they were discovered, whilst you parents just chimed “it’s just what happens when you have older brothers” whenever you protested/cried yourself to sleep praying one of them would wake up in the morning a girl. You see I am the youngest of four older brothers, and I am the only one to have been diagnosed as Aspergers; pretty unfair given the official statistics. However, instead of disputing this statistic, I have taken a long hard look at each of my brothers and decided that two questionably have some autistic traits at least, and the other two are so far along the spectrum they have almost lapped me. The reason they haven’t been diagnosed? It’s never been that much of a problem for them; they’re just considered ‘typical men’.

Research has shown that the families of those with an ASD tend to have a higher ratio of male siblings to female siblings, thought to be a result of high testosterone levels of the parents at the time of conception; heightened levels of foetal testosterone has been a strong contender for the cause of autism for the last decade. This does not mean females with autism are walking around with a beard and a very deep voice (well not because of the autism anyway), but it would explain my lack of sisters.

One of the traits of autism is being good at systemising. Those with a systemising brain type have an intuitive drive to analyse the variables of a system, breaking it down into the rules that run it, and is again more typical in males. As children this can be seen in the games stereotypically boys choose to play, such as Lego building blocks, vehicles and weapons. As adults strong systemisers tend to lean towards careers in fields involving the construction of systems such as mathematics, physics and engineering. Generally there seems to be a trend with the grandfathers and fathers of autistic individuals being overrepresented in careers requiring a high level of systemising. Although two of my brothers are now engineers, my father worked in a paper factory his whole life, one of my grandfather’s was a decorator and my other grandfather seemed to spend most of his time being grumpy, racist and occasionally mowing the lawn. I surmise from this that it’s not all about what field your career is in but how you approach it, I chose to go down the Psychology path, if I am being honest probably so I could systemise human behaviour into something much more predictable.

The genetic link appears to be quite strong, so unfortunately for my brothers on this occasion (and most/all other occasions) I may be correct in my diagnosis. I read somewhere that there are two types of autism, the sort where it causes great anxiety and low self-esteem and the sort which causes self-opinionated arrogance and anger. Those experiencing the latter tend to refuse their diagnosis much more than the first group; upon approaching three of my brothers with my quasi-diagnosis, purely for research purposes, I can confirm this to be the case. Brother #1, who I have diagnosed based on his obsessive interests, short fuse/frustration tolerance, lack of care for his appearance, lack of empathy, and over enjoyment of his own company, did not take my suggestion well and I received this text back: “I have an expensive car and earn more money an hour than you can dream of, I don’t care”. Brother #2 had been told already by others that they thought he might have Aspergers, based on his eccentricity and nervousness; he met my suggestion like a true Aspie, apathetically. Brother #3 I just wanted to wind up after months of been called an ‘arseburger’, he’s now walking around scared stiff he’s been ‘inflicted’ with the same disorder.

So, back to my main point, can it run in families? Apparently so.



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  1. The reason they haven’t been diagnosed? It’s never been that much of a problem for them; they’re just considered ‘typical men’.

    My brother has always seemed more socially easy going and well adapted than me… I was the ‘problem kid’ and the one who struggled with mental problems and social isolation during my youth and adulthood. Today (based on the fairly few times I have seen him during the last decade), he seems more socially awkward, nerdy and aspie-like than me in many ways. Maybe he was all the time, I just didn’t notice it in the past.

    There are a number of reasons my brother appears to have had a smoother ride through life than me. Hereunder a very agreeable personality and ‘cuteness’, musical specialisation & talent (playing in bands can be a way to have a social life without too much small talk), and overall simply an effective social niche-strategy.

    However, I also think it has helped him that he is a boy/man. It seems to be more acceptable for men to be quirky, aloof, somewhat solitaire and absorbed in interests (especially when they are generally sympathetic, benign persons). I think he could be more socially different at me at the outset, yet have milder social difficulties and easier adapttation, simply because of less demanding social expectations to boys/men than to girls/women.

    Ps. For the context: I have 3 younger brothers (no sisters). I grew up with the oldest of them, who is the one described above. The 2 youngest are half-grew up with me but not vice versa; they are around 20 years younger than me.

    • Sorry, the last sentence should say: The 2 youngest are half-brothers. They grew up with me but not vice versa; they are around 20 years younger than me.

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  3. Thanks for your post. I’d be very interested in some references on autism and aggression. I certainly haven’t found any in a quick online search about female Aspergers.

  4. I’ve a younger brother with autism. I’ve never been diagnosed with anything. (I’m mostly just nerdy and weird.) Not a lot of information was known while we were growing up (born in the 80’s) and I’d always believed my brother’s autism was the result of birth trauma (umbilical cord had wrapped around his throat and was choking him). In recent years, as I’ve become aware of genetic components, I am concerned about the risks in having children of my own, especially given that there are stronger maternal correlations. However, most of the literature I read focuses on higher risks to younger siblings of people with autism, I’ve not seen anything speaking to older siblings or second generations. :/

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