Tuesday, April 26, 2016

“Holding a Lighted Candle” – Generation Sagittarius Makes Its Mark on Autism Research

In honor of "Autism Awareness" month!

A few words of introduction to this post are in order: first, because this article is a slightly updated version of the original, published in the August/September 2015 edition of The Mountain Astrologer (and subsequently shared by TMA with Astrodienst.com). Second, because trying to make astrological sense of Autism Spectrum Disorders was inspired by raising sons challenged by ADHD, by working with students in a local Autism program, and by my frequent encounters with affected students in my university classrooms.

Importantly, I wouldn't presume to claim that astrology holds any cures for Autism, and I would never attempt to diagnose an individual case based on natal factors (which operate on many levels with many different results). Diagnosis is definitely the province of neurologists and specialized pediatricians. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, however, an astrologer can offer insights into behavioral and developmental issues, and to potentials that may escape notice (this happens a lot). In general, knowing something about autism is a gift to astrology--there's simply no better way to plumb the depths of the human body, mind and spirit connection, and that is worth the price of admission! 

This study revisits and builds upon my earlier published work regarding an astrological perspective on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and the sensory processing disorder (SPD) often associated with autism.[1] Happily, amazing progress has been made in the past decade in these distinct, but interrelated fields: public and private support organizations have mobilized a diverse army of professionals to tackle this growing public health phenomenon. This “army” includes leading neurologists, geneticists, specialized mental health and education practitioners, IT engineers and software developers, and therapists in a range of disciplines.

Autism touches nearly every walk of life, it seems—at the same time it touches ever more lives. The latest Center for Disease Control report on the issue (based on 2010 data gathered from around 5,300 8 year-olds, born in 2002) states that “about 1 in 68 [U.S.] children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder…”.[2] This prevalence number climbed steadily between 2000-2008, from 1 in 150, to 1 in 125, to 1 in 110, to 1 in 88; then, in the latest 2010 study, the numbers took that 30% leap to 1 in 68. The U.S. is not alone here—autism has been a growing global phenomenon.

My 2006 article, titled “In Synch & Out-of-Synch…,”[3]  used the Pluto-in-Sagittarius ingress (Chart 1)[4] to examine the rising phenomenon of ASD and SPD in that generation (a segment of the “Millennials,” born between early 1995 and November 2008)[5], and to offer an astrological perspective.  Now it seems important, as this Pluto generation (hereafter referred to as “Gen Sagittarius”) gradually comes of age, to revisit and update that work—happily, with the input of young adult Gen Sagittarians who have made their challenges with autism public in both book form and online, in social media.

Interestingly, these young adults—with the help of incredibly dedicated parents and professionals—have broken through the barriers of non-verbal autism to pursue much fuller, connected lives, to communicate and advocate for themselves. From their progress, we are learning that many of these individuals possess normal, even stellar intelligence, albeit trapped inside uncooperative physical/sensory systems.

But first, an important disclaimer: a Pluto ingress chart reflects global collective, evolutionary trends, but does not supersede an individual’s own nativity or represent fated inevitabilities within that generation.  The Sagittarius generation is most emphatically not defined by the climb in autism statistics. Although a comprehensive generational analysis is beyond the scope of this article (only the oldest among them have been studied by demographers at this point), Gen Sagittarius is coming of age quite publicly (especially in social media) as a generation at ease in a globalized, technology-driven world. Being digital “natives,” all signs indicate they are deeply sensitive, yet pragmatic, hands-on problem solvers—traits easily seen in their tight Capricorn Sun-Uranus-Neptune conjunction, closely opposed by a dignified Cancer Moon (Chart 1).

They are also known for taking an expansive view on cultural, personal and social values—less concerned with institutions and more concerned with networking and social justice. Coupled with their unapologetic quest for upbeat, “hip” material lives, Gen Sagittarius clearly resonates with the Pluto-Jupiter-Venus Sagittarian cluster spanning their 1st and 2nd houses. Perhaps with Pluto in their 1st house of identity, their metaphorical “mark” on the world is made with each “selfie” they snap?

It’s worth considering the core significance of the “selfie”—this generational urge to stay connected with self as a means of connecting with others.  Could the simple sensory act of recording their existence and activities serve a deeper existential purpose of staying centered, staying “in touch,” and hence, more secure—as in, “If I can see myself, I can be myself?” Of course, gaining approval on social media is key to completing the “self-other” circuit. As we’ll see, this simple communication dynamic that most Gen Sagittarians can take completely for granted is a real challenge for those with autism.  

“…on my desert island with no raft…”
Autism and sensory processing challenges have been experienced in every generation, so why focus on this particular group? Because it seems both the incidence of ASD and SPD and the public/private response to it has been reaching a critical mass that makes this generation an important evolutionary threshold. As noted, considerable progress in both autism research and resources has been made since 1995, and thankfully, children born with autism in the current Pluto in Capricorn generation can benefit from their older peers’ breakthroughs.  We might question, however, whether this would have happened without thousands of Pluto-in-Sagittarius parents and caregivers applying pressure, desperate for answers. 

In his amazing 2012 memoir, Ido in Autismland,” 20-year old Ido Kedar (born in May 1996) writes about the so-called autism “experts,” saying, “I think I can imagine their theories and how they reached their insights better than they can imagine smart, intact people trapped in a non-responsive body…I’d still be on my desert island with no raft if no one had given me communication, or exercise, or respect. I am living proof that communication is the key.”[6] At seven, with the help of a perceptive mother who sensed his intelligence and ability were simply masked by his low-functioning exterior, Ido broke through into communication via typing and pointing to letters on a board.

Amazingly, Ido had taught himself to read and spell by that time, even though his special education teachers confined his studies to pre-school level instruction. Once he began using a letter board and found a home-based teacher who took his intelligence seriously, some of these “experts” refused to believe in his progress. As his mother relates, “They rejected it as impossible. They were not open to a new possibility, or as Ido says, they were ‘blinded by their professional biases.’”  Since this time, many Gen Sagittarians with autism have made similar breakthroughs.

In Carly’s Voice,[7] we read a deeply self-aware account of challenges and breakthroughs from 21-year old Carly Fleischmann, born with her “neurotypical” twin sister just days after Pluto entered Sagittarius in January, 1995. A similar, major breakthrough in communication came for her when she learned to use voice output devices and a laptop.  The stories Carly, Ido and many others tell so vividly speak for thousands of Gen Sagittarians with so-called “low-functioning autism.” As we’ll see, their intense struggles in controlling and coordinating their sensory systems, minds and bodies, are reflected in their generational chart, which also provides helpful direction.

This analysis of the Pluto-Sagittarius ingress chart will employ the basic astrological correlations found in Table 1, which rely heavily on the work of medical astrologer, Jane Ridder-Patrick,[8] updated in 2006 and containing more about developmental and neurological issues like autism.  

Table 1. Planetary correlations used in this study (in keeping with Ridder-Patrick’s 2006 medical astrology handbook—see endnote #8).

Being (sense of Self), consciousness, vitality (body heat), vision (integrative function), heart function, cell nuclei (DNA, hence genetic conditions and congenital disorders); right eye of man/ left eye of woman
Bodily sensations and cycles, emotional arousal, fluids and hormones, limbic system (including hypothalamus and hippocampus), fertility/reproduction, circadian rhythms, instinctive reflexes, stomach/small intestine, right eye of woman/left eye of man
Nervous systems (central, autonomic, enteric, sensory receptors), respiration, auditory sense (nervous system component), verbal skills, fine motor dexterity/coordination, mental faculties (ability to extract info from the environment and act on it), “concrete” perception
Sense of balance (vestibular system), homeostasis, sex hormones/feedback mechanisms
Muscle systems and movement coordination through space (proprioceptive sense); impulse control; immune system, inflammatory response, adrenal function, arousal
Cerebrum (left hemisphere), integrative brain function, abstract and motor reasoning (hence, cognitive and motor disorders); belief/ideological system; arterial system, liver
Skin (and tactile sense, w/Mercury), skeletal system, teeth, auditory sense (bony aspect and regulation), vestibular sense (gravity/regulation), developmental timelines
Rhythmic pulsation, bodily systems coordination, electrical system, corpus callosum/cross-hemispheric thinking
Intuition, mental visualization and illusion (hence, “stimming”), right-brain processing, permeability, allergies/autoimmune and fungal diseases, addictions, spiritual/psychic insight
Waste/elimination system, toxicity, primitive “reptilian” brain/amygdala, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, “fight or flight” response
Interaction w/environment, “electric” inflow of vital energy
Highest aspirations, brain cortex (our “crown”)/consciousness of self

Pluto’s grand Sagittarian entrance
In the dead of winter, at 1:28 a.m., January 17, 1995, Pluto traded its comfortable Scorpionic swamp boat for a grand Sagittarian chariot of fire, and so crashed the royal party of its more cheerful colleague, Jupiter. Cast for Greenwich, England, the chart (Chart below) appears fit for a “royal,” or at least an individual (in this case, a whole, global generation) of great potential—and at 75+ million in the U.S. alone, great numbers. Scorpio rises—appropriate for Pluto’s welcome—at 3+ degrees. The Sabian symbol for this degree is “A youth holding a lighted candle,” fitting for a generation of youth who are seeking to reveal their inner light in the greater world.

Chart: Pluto Ingress, Sagittarius. January 17, 1995, 1:28 a.m., Greenwich, England (51°N29’ 0°00’) ST. Tropical Equal houses, True Node.

Two powerful stellia of three bodies each dominate the 1st quarter of this chart:  Pluto-Jupiter-Venus cross Sagittarian “arrows” across the 2nd house cusp, spanning 0°-9°38’ Sagittarius, and Neptune-Uranus-Sun are clustered uncomfortably close, in the 3rd house, from 23°10’-to-26°27’ Capricorn. Uranus is “cazimi” (in the heart of) the Sun, empowered by its mere 2’ separation. As impressive as these powerful 1st quarter gatherings seem at first glance, they foreshadowed both great potential and great challenges to the generation of children they welcomed. As we’ll see, the aspect dynamics formed by both groupings radiate their influence throughout the chart.

Input & Output
Let’s begin where Gen Sagittarius took its first breath, at the chart’s Scorpio ascendant. Ridder-Patrick and others she cites consider the ascendant the native’s interface with the surrounding environment, the point that shows “how patients perceive and receive their ‘diet,’…anything and everything that was taken in and included not only food and drink, but air, thoughts, emotions and atmospheres.”[9] Sensory input is a key part of that “diet,” and coping with and regulating sensory input of all types is a constant issue with both ASD and SPD.

This challenge produces many “typical” autistic behaviors, such as avoiding eye contact, withdrawal, and “stimming” (self-stimulatory behaviors like flapping hands and head-banging that we now know help manage sensory overload).  As Carly puts it, “Stims are when we focus on sensory output to block out sensory input.”[10]

Tactics for filtering all types of overwhelming sensory input—as in being able to focus on a teacher speaking while the environment is flooded with sensory distractions that demand equal attention—are also indicated by the ascendant, here the Water sign, Scorpio. Ridder-Patrick points out water signs are “self-protective,” so a Scorpio ascendant makes for guarded interaction with others and that critical “diet.” Scorpio fits autism’s intense inward focus quite well—affected children often seem “lost” or “submerged” in an inaccessible world, but given the overwhelming nature of their sensory lives, Scorpio’s protection may be welcome. 

With time, effort and therapy, the individual can develop appropriate filtering skills and gradually learn to navigate their chaotic sensory worlds. We’ll see more on this as we address individual aspects and consider actual experiences.

Given the challenges of ASD and SPD, it’s no surprise that the generational chart co-rulers, Mars (01°+Vir) and Pluto (0°Sag), fall square, and that both are amplified by their respective contacts with Jupiter (7°+Sag): Mars by square, Pluto by conjunction.  Mars also opposes Saturn (9°Pis), which turns the Mars-Pluto-Jupiter-Saturn contact into a mutable t-square. With a slightly generous orb of 9 full degrees, Venus (9°Sag) adds her fiery clout to this configuration, but even with the conventional 8° orb, the Venus-Jupiter conjunction squares Saturn.  Regardless, the t-square poses a host of complex challenges, based on the medical astrological correlations we’re using in Table 1.

A host of complex challenges
A mutable t-square is, according to Bil Tierney, “taxing to the nervous system (often due to over-stimulation) as well as disruptive to thought processes.”[11] The specific neurological players involved in this tough t-square are: the “ancient” brain structure, the amygdala (Pluto), which stimulates deep anxiety and possible panic, triggering the “fight or flight” response; the cerebrum, left-brain reasoning and integrative brain function (Jupiter); and the vestibular sense, governing our sense of balance (Venus and Saturn). These functions square the Mars-Saturn opposition, producing tension with the proprioceptive sense, impulse control (both Mars), and the tactile and auditory senses (Saturn, with input from Mercury for hearing).

With four squares and a potent opposition, this t-square is already challenging enough, but when signs and rulership networks are factored in, very complex sensory processing issues are revealed. We can also see why gut problems, celiac disease, colitis and other inflammation-based ills[12] are prevalent in those with autism, and although sensory and immune system issues do not necessarily coexist, this chart may explain why, at times, they do.

The Mars-Saturn aspect in particular, suggests how this complex neural/immune system relationship functions.  About her daughter Elizabeth’s case, Virginia Breen writes that, “Another common trait associated with autism is an overly active immune system (ruled by Mars), that never shuts down, not even when its job of fighting off a cold or flu is done. It is always hyped up in full fighting mode, so much so that the immune system begins attacking itself, causing inflammation from the intestines to the brain.”[13] The keywords for Virgo Mars opposite Pisces Saturn say it all: “Fire in the gut”, seeking a “cool down in water.” Pisces, of course, draws Neptune’s role in autoimmune diseases into the picture.

Breen also cites medical experts who think the more “odd autistic behaviors” are caused by this internal heat, and it seems Carly might agree. “You don’t know what it feels like when you can’t sit still because your legs feel like they are on fire,” she says, “or it feels like a hundred ants are crawling up your arms.”[14] Not surprisingly, many sensory-challenged individuals find being in the water soothing—the therapeutic upside of Neptune.

Ridder-Patrick points to a role for Jupiter and Neptune in these neural/immune system issues: “…damage to the left side of the cerebral cortex [Jupiter] depressed the immune system. Right brain [Neptune] damage, on the other hand, caused increased activity in the white blood cells, which play a major role in the body’s defence system.”[15]  

As the co-ruler of Pisces, Jupiter’s square with Saturn may compromise Jupiter’s protective (cerebral) role, as well as stimulating Neptunian excesses with white blood cell production. The “fiery” character of this problem could also reflect the sign placements of the “heavies” involved: Jupiter’s wide conjunction with Pluto (fight or flight) in Sagittarius and Pluto’s tight square with Mars (by nature, a hot, dry influence) can present a fiery  assault on the subject’s sensory and immune systems, producing extreme, relentless stress. Jupiter’s semi-square relationships to the Sun-Uranus-Neptune stellium further amplify these nervous/immune system complications, adding to the stress.

The Dual World
Those observing individuals with autism and sensory challenges study how these internal challenges manifest in behavior. The push-pull nature of this stressful t-square configuration is mirrored precisely by Ido when he discusses his “dual world:” “On the one hand, I have an intelligent mind and I think deeply. On the other hand, I only react to impulses, like a lizard chasing a cricket.”[16] Jupiter (intellect) and Mars (impulse) are certainly at odds here.

About his proprioceptive (a “near sense”) problems (also Mars related) Ido says, “I’m not sure where my body is if my eyes are shut. I must see my hands to know where they are. It’s sort of terrible to open my eyes and see my body somewhere in space when I thought it was somewhere else…I react in confusion because I can’t understand why my body is in the wrong place.”[17] The proprioceptive sense relies on feedback from our muscles and joints to tell us where our bodies are in space, but it seems Ido could also be experiencing an impaired vestibular sense —the “near sense” which uses feedback from the inner ear to help us perceive our movement through and position in space, as well as governing our sense of balance.

Those with such vestibular discrimination disorder rely on vision and other senses to “discover” where their bodies are. The t-square’s Venus-Saturn square (balance-inner ear) likely plays a role here. Is it any wonder with all this that survival anxiety, panic disorders and obsessive compulsive habits often accompany autism and sensory challenges?

Apraxia is a particularly frustrating motor deficiency that adds to proprioceptive and vestibular problems by undermining the mind/body connection most people take for granted. Ido says it’s like “a bad phone connection. I know my thoughts are getting lost on the way to my mouth. I think of an idea. I try to say it and the wrong thing comes out…It’s like my mouth is surprising me and I have to obey it.”[18] Based on the neurological correlations, apraxia would seem to suggest that Mars (motor) energies are undermined by the complicated Jupiter/Saturn/Neptune (mind) relationship in the t-square, but we will revisit this issue when we consider the Moon’s opposition to the chart’s powerful Capricorn stellium. 

A body-mind disconnect
First, however, we need to back up and consider Aquarius Mercury’s role in the t-square: disposed by Saturn and Uranus, Mercury in turn disposes Virgo Mars, meaning the Mars-Saturn opposition is also influenced by the energies of Mercury and Uranus (empowered by a cazimi Sun), with an extra dose of Saturn (disposing Aquarius), for good measure.  Of Mercury-Saturn aspects, Ridder-Patrick says “there can be an underfunctioning of the nervous system generally, but especially that part supplying the organs of speech and hearing.”[19] 

Perhaps the body/mind disconnect so prevalent in ASD is what makes speaking so difficult for non-verbal autistics, as well.  Tito Mudhopadhyay, a 25-year old “low-functioning” man with autism whose mother, Soma, taught him to communicate (and now teaches others), captures this issue in the title of one of his many books: “How can I talk if my lips don’t move?”[20]

Carly also describes this frustrating mind/body disconnect, revealing why she bangs her head and flops on the floor. “Most of the time I’m having a power struggle with myself. I tell myself to stop, but I can’t. Have you ever yelled at your boys to clean up their room but they don’t? It’s like my body. It does not always do what I want it to do…I act up because I feel so trapped inside myself.”[21]

Carly’s trapped feelings are certainly shared by Ido and Tito and undoubtedly others with autism, but happily, learning to communicate with the use of technology and letter boards has opened a relief valve for many. Astrology teaches us to resolve the tension and conflicts of a t-square by directing efforts towards the chart area opposite the focal planet(s), in this case opposite Pluto-Jupiter-Venus.  This point would be in the Mercury-ruled, Gemini 8th house, which makes perfect sense: Mercury rules this house from Aquarius, and thus brings its expertise in both communications and technology to bear. Mercury’s involved in the problems, so it makes “homeopathic” sense that Mercury would also provide a path forward. Through the intense efforts and resources provided by others (8th house), Gen Sagittarians with autism are finding a way out of their forced isolation.

Lady Luna holds court
The Moon in this generational chart is a dignified (28°+Cancer) Queen Mother, holding court in Jupiter’s 9th house, where the Cancer cusp suggests his energies are also potent, even “exalted.” Given the excessive tendencies of this strong Sagittarius Jupiter, the wide (128°56’) dissociate trine aspect between the two “royals” deserves note. In fact, the Moon and Jupiter are thought to co-rule the hypothalamus, a key part of the brain’s limbic system that Ridder-Patrick says “is responsible for regulating hunger, thirst, response to pain and pleasure…[and] the autonomic nervous system, which is in charge of pulse, blood pressure, breathing and arousal in response to emotions.”[22]

It’s possible this trine reflects an uneasy (dissociate) hypothalamic “overload” of sorts, which would make sense, since appetite control and emotional arousal issues often co-exist with autism. One of Carly’s early, “breakthrough” typed messages read: “Look, I will work for food,”[23] and Ido speaks for many when he says, “My emotions are like a force that takes over my entire self…I can’t stop it on my own.”[24]

Since the autonomic nerves regulating skin temperature are also hypothalamus-related, this overload could also speak to Carly’s experiences with “burning” legs, or to the hypersensitivity to touch, rough fabrics and clothing tags that many with autism display. The hypothalamus ideally helps our brains, nerves, emotions and bodies act in coordination, but sensory-challenged individuals often lack this coordination. The problem is further compounded when we consider additional lunar aspects in this chart:

Moon trine (dissociate) Pluto (0°00’Sag). A tighter aspect than the Moon-Jupiter trine discussed, Jupiter—conjunct Pluto and ruling Sagittarius—again amplifies its effects. Moon-Pluto contacts can indicate eating disorders and gut issues, and Pluto’s rulership of the so-called “reptilian brain,” or amygdala, could also explain the flood of anxiety often experienced with sensory challenges.  Ido cites a neurologist who thinks that “autism is a severe form of anxiety disorder which inhibits our ability to respond.”[25] Such anxiety can result from emotional/sensory overload, which in turn produces behaviors often considered problematic or “low functioning.”  

As mentioned earlier, many sensory-besieged individuals with autism employ “hand flapping” to relieve the uncomfortable flood of energy and anxiety they experience, but this behavior can also cause problems for them. “Mostly it’s the reaction of others to my flapping that is hard to deal with,” Ido writes. “It’s painful to see people react like I’m so strange to them. I’d stop if I had another way to release my tension.”[26]

The Moon’s “triple whammy.”  Speaking of the need to release tension, the Cancer Moon in this chart forms an amazing triple opposition with Neptune-Uranus cazimi Sun—all in Capricorn.  Surely this complex of tight contacts between outer planets (Uranus-Neptune) and both luminaries—especially during full lunation—could create enormous stress on the affected individual’s body/mind. The 3rd-9th house placement of this opposition only adds to the stress, as this axis brings mental and nervous system issues to bear. Ridder-Patrick attributes Moon-Uranus oppositions with a “lack of stability and security…intense emotional excitability…” and she herself notes a connection between this pair and autism, as well as Asperger’s syndrome. She attributes Moon-Neptune contacts with allergies and “environmental sensitivities”—as we’ve seen, a problem with many with autism.[27]

ASD individuals often need more time and effort to respond to stimuli and directions, perhaps reflecting not only these oppositions and the complicated body (Moon)/mind (Sun-Uranus-Neptune) connections they represent, but also the stressful impact of Saturn, disposing and semi-squaring the Capricorn planets. Ridder-Patrick attributes Moon-Saturn “afflictions” with “hereditary diseases…depression owing to fear and abnormal sensitivity…slowed and inhibited emotional response, as well as restrictive and controlling eating behaviours, which provide fertile ground for illness of all kinds.”[28]

Researchers now claim autism is at least partially hereditary, and the experiences reported by those with autism confirm how valid the remaining Moon-Saturn concerns are.  Speaking about the “paralysis of intentional responses” he experiences, Ido says, “I live in a world in which my brain is sort of only for thinking and my body needs guidance and can’t get the input it needs from the brain.”[29]

On the other hand, perhaps Saturn’s inhibiting influence helps temper the difficult energies of Uranus and Neptune in this chart, despite the potential stress. However, to compound the situation, Capricorn Neptune forms a mutual reception with Pisces Saturn (they inhabit each others’ home signs), deepening the ways this “triple whammy” configuration pits the highly incompatible energies of Saturn and Neptune against each other. In combination with the luminaries, “electrified” by Uranus, it’s no wonder those affected by this chart experience body/mind disconnect, motor deficits and a host of emotional frustrations. Their minds can be seen to “buzz” erratically like electrical wires, torn loose by a storm and lying in a pool of water—watch out!

Therapies help forge new connections
Typically, neurological and sensorimotor processing work seamlessly together, but it takes a lifetime of effort to forge those connections when they are missing or challenged, and many simply give up trying. As noted earlier, though, Neptune can be helpful: many sensory-challenged individuals find swimming, water exercise and sports quite therapeutic. Ido claims “In the water I feel my legs and my core and my arms…On dry land I feel like my body is unreal or not even a part of me sometimes…if my body wakes up, I’ll be on my way.”[30]

Other therapies that have proven helpful in this “awakening” are, not surprisingly, Yoga, Tai Chi, and any activity that promotes body/mind integration.  As mentioned, many with autism now communicate by typing and pointing to letter boards—also an important body/mind coordination therapy, which requires great effort.  Ido recounts working hard at exercise and studying piano to improve his hand/eye and two-sided coordination—bilaterality—a critical skill also impacted by Saturn (left brain) and Neptune (right brain).   

Stimming and sensory relief
Finally, the “triple whammy” might tell us more about the sensory phenomenon of “stimming,” one of the most amazing pieces of the autism puzzle. “Stims” are compelling internal impulses that can feel like “waves of sensory energy,” according to Ido, who says, “I am bombarded with silver lights and streams of color…They mesmerize me, but sometimes they scare me…I am lost in the sensory world that is a relief and a poisonous prison.”[31] This colorful inner, visual world certainly suggests Neptune’s involvement—especially as Ido also likens stims to an addictive, “escapist drug” or trap, akin to alcoholism.

Stims drive repetitive, tension-relieving behaviors—hand-flapping, as we’ve seen—and others, such as body rocking and repetitive vocalizing (echolalia). These behaviors serve a useful “grounding” purpose, apparently, but they can also distract and isolate sensory-challenged individuals, preventing them from participating fully in life, focusing on education, socializing, and so on—hence, the “prison.”

Stimming surely also involves Aquarius Mercury, the planet Uranus disposes in this chart. Uranus and Mercury, super-charged even further by Mercury’s opposition to the Leo Midheaven (the MC is thought to impact the brain’s motor nerve centers )—can overstimulate the body’s electric and nervous systems, producing behaviors such as non-stop restless movement, in Carly’s case, or in being “overly stimmy” in Ido’s case.

Naoki Higashida, a young Japanese adult with autism, titled his book The Reason I Jump, and when asked “why can you never stay still?” he says, “When I’m not moving, it feels as if my soul is detaching itself from my body, and this makes me so jumpy and scared that I can’t stay where I am.”[32] We can only speculate whether these “electrical” issues common in autism provide a key to the frequent coexistence of ASD, and  “electrical” disorders like epilepsy.[33]

Moon square Ascendant (3°43’Sco). This final major generational Moon aspect points to an increased tendency toward subjectivity, and with hard aspects such as this, a lack of objectivity (also square the Descendant).[34] Clearly, an intense inward focus is characteristic of autism, and as we’ve seen, Scorpio rising reinforces the need to be very self-protective, but the oft-cited notion that people with autism are incapable of empathy is overrated. Empathy is a difficult skill for even “neurotypicals,” at times, but virtually all of the young authors with autism considered here express their awareness of the needs and challenges of others around them—especially their family members and others with autism—and their desire to advocate for those who haven’t made the progress they have. None of this comes easily for them, but then, square aspects are difficult, after all.

The young people we’ve considered here—who thankfully represent a growing sub-group within the autism population—have proven that by learning to communicate and fighting hard for every bit of progress, they can pursue full, mostly “normal” educations. By doing so, they experience more connected lives than was ever thought possible with autism. Beyond writing and pursuing their educations, Carly and Ido have both become online “voices” for autism awareness and research. Carly has been interviewed repeatedly by media figures; Ido has made numerous public “speeches” (using his letterboard) about autism issues, and both maintain a social media presence that helps raise awareness.  Great strides have been made in how educators work with their students with autism, but much remains to be done.

Chiron has its say
Lastly, it’s worth considering the deeper, “Chironic” wisdom of autism’s intense inward focus. With Chiron at 26°+Virgo in the generational chart, it’s not surprising that the young authors we’ve heard from express deeply spiritual insight into their “wounded” conditions (highly recommended reading!).  In fact, Chiron trines the Capricorn stellium and sextiles the Moon and Pluto (with a wider orb), thus touching both luminaries and the outer planets most characterized as “spiritual” in nature.

Mercury also comes into play, through its rulership of Virgo—the sign of Healing. According to astrologer Martin Lass, “In general, Chiron aspects to Mercury confer a potential ability to communicate and express the messages of Chiron. However, the manifestation of this expression may tend to be more non-verbal than verbal due to Wounds to our ability to communicate verbally and intellectually with others.”[35] 

Certainly a breathtaking coincidence for those with non-verbal autism we’ve considered here, the combined Chiron aspects in this chart capture the evolutionary task of Gen Sagittarius quite well. They are both the children of Pluto’s sojourn in Sagittarius, and the children of the still new Uranus-Neptune cycle (begun just 2 years before their generation landed), and as such, they form the “leading edge” of a new type of human, challenged with incorporating intense outer planetary energies into everything personal.  Such adaptations don’t come easily for all, but with Pluto, the wheels keep on turning, inexorably. True to its Sabian symbol, this generation is bringing its light to the world.

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former university English instructor. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years. Raye can be contacted by comment here, or at: robertsonraye@gmail.com. 

© Raye Robertson 2016. All rights reserved. 

[1]The Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation claims 75% of children with autism also experience sensory processing problems; however, they emphasize that “the reverse is not true…the two conditions are distinct disorders.” http://spdfoundation.net/otherdisorders.html. Accessed 9/3/2014.
[2] Center for Disease Control, Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years—Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United State, 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6302a1.htm?s_cid=ss6302a1, March 28, 2014, accessed 9/3/2014.
[3] Published in the ISAR journal, Sagittarius, 2006 issue, pp. 62-68.
[4][4] Autism is an issue of global significance, so in keeping with astrological tradition, the chart is set for Greenwich, England
[5] Mainstream demographers define the Millennials as those born between 1980-2001; astrology traditionally defines generations by their Pluto sign, so there’s some overlap with the Millennials here, but over time, not all Pluto-in-Sagittarius individuals will be considered Millennials.
[6] Ido Kedar, Ido in Autismland: Coming Out of Autism’s Silent Prison, self-published, pp. 96-7.
[7] Arthur Fleischmann w/Carly Fleischmann, Carly’s Voice, Simon & Schuster, 2012.
[8] Jane Ridder-Patrick, The Handbook of Medical Astrology, CrabApple Press, 2nd edition, 2006.
[9] Ibid, p. 68.
[10] Fleischmann, pp. 298-9.
[11] Bil Tierney, Dynamics of Aspect Analysis, CRCS, 1983, p. 100.
[12] Journal of Medical Microbiology (2005), 54, 987–991…Helena M. R. T. Parracho, Max O. Bingham,† Glenn R. Gibson and Anne L. McCartney

[13] Elizabeth M. Bonker and Virginia G. Breen, I Am In Here, Revell, 2011, p. 51.
[14] Fleischmann, p. 298-9.
[15] Ridder-Patrick, p. 29.
[16] Kedar, pp. 143-4.
[17] Ibid, p. 47.
[18] Ibid., p. 53.
[19] Ridder-Patrick, p. 79.
[20] Arcade Publishing, 2008, 2011.
[21] Fleischmann, p. 302.
[22] Ridder-Patrick, p. 48.
[23] Fleischmann, p. 117.
[24] Kedar, p. 107.
[25] Ibid., p. 59.
[26] Ibid., p. 43.
[27] Ridder-Patrick, pp.. 76-7.
[28] Ridder-Patrick, p. 76.
[29] Kedar, p. 101.
[30] Kedar, 84-5.
[31] Ibid, p. 42.
[32] Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump, Random House, 2007, p. 106.
[33] Caren Haines, RN, Silently Seizing, AAPC Publishing, 2012.
[34] Ridder-Patrick, p. 78.
[35] Martin Lass, Musings of a Rogue Comet: Chiron, Planet of Healing, Galactic Publications, 2001, p. 375.


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