January 08, 2018

Parents of Autistic Children are Soldiers!

By LaToya Lewis

 Parents of Autistic Children are Soldiers!

Have you ever thought why your memory is so bad, why you are so tense even when you're kid free and in a relaxed environment or where the heck that depressive episode came from, out of the blue?! According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin Madison, parents of children with Autism (particularly caring for teens and adults), have a higher stress level than parents of non disabled children, in fact we experience similar level of stress as soldiers in combat!

In 2009, the University of Wisconsin Madison conducted a research that showed mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers and struggle with frequent fatigue and work interruptions. Researchers followed a group of moms who care for older autistic children for eight days in a row. The mothers were interviewed at the end of each day about their experiences and on the fourth day, researchers measured the moms’ hormone levels to assess their stress.They found that a hormone associated with stress, cortisol was extremely low, consistent with people experiencing chronic stress such as soldiers in combat."This is the physiological residue of daily stress,” says, Marsha Mailick Seltzer, a researcher at the University." The mothers of children with high levels of behavior problems have the most pronounced physiological profile of chronic stress, but the long-term effect on their physical health is not yet known.”

Well, from my experience with Malik, these findings came as no surprise to me! After seventeen years of daily meltdowns, tantrums, aggressive behaviors, self harming and impulsive behaviors, I realized how much it has affected me (which is why I created a clothing brand geared toward affecting behaviors!).

Rightfully so, over the years, I started to experience my own challenges, such as poor memory due to caring for a child who is severely developmentally disabled, in addition to having some medical issues since birth....this all was due to the acute stress; pressure filled workload; constantly worrying what's going to happen next; having to scan over a room like I'm in the secret service- I could process in seconds what could trigger Malik, who or what he would mess with and having to time us on how long we were at each destination (can't be anywhere no more than 30 minutes before he got bored or silly and following this comes a full on "show!") ........

 One thing that the research did conclude was the mothers they studied still remained positive and very supportive within their community, and I agree with having a positive mental attitude and self care are crucial to remaining sane- I highly stress the importance of creating a support team and carving out time for yourself on a regular basis, NO MATTER WHAT!!!

Things you can do:

  • watch a movie - comedy or love film, not a thriller!
  • go to the spa- even if you cant afford it, make it a priority
  • date night- have a monthly date with a close friend or with your partner- try not to discuss your stressors
  • read a book- not about Autism, but more about personal development
  • exercise- go for a walk or do cardio at home or in the gym- release hormones
  • meditation- take time out 5-10 minutes a day of quiet time to clear your mind and think of positive  or spiritual affirmations
  • reach out to family for support - speak up and ask for a babysitter to give you a break! (ask those who you trust, of course)

I would love to hear from you, can you relate?! Drop a comment sharing your personal experiences or thoughts!



To find out more about this research: https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2009/11/10/autism-moms-stress/6121/


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