In this blog, I will be sharing articles from other websites, because I feel that the information might benefit families with special needs children of all ages. I will also be sharing my personal experiences, as a special needs mom, as well as experiences of others. I could really relate to this article regarding stress. I bet you can too!
What Do Mothers Of Children with Special Needs and Combat Soldiers Have In Common?
“Stress is something most parents experience. Yet the stress of raising a child with special needs is compounded. Two major research studies are a wake-up call for mothers of children with special needs.
2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine, Elizabeth Blackburn, discovered in a study of chronically stressed mothers an average shortening of their life expectancy by 9 to 12 years. The University of California San Francisco biochemist studied mothers who had reared children with special needs for 15 years.
These mothers experienced the shortening of their telomeres due to stress. Stress interferes with cellular replication that keeps a person young. DNA replication is prevented when the protective tips of the chromosomes, the telomeres, fray.
In a separate study, Marsha Mailick Seltzer, Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers.
The moms were observed for eight days over the duration of the study. It was discovered that the mothers had significantly low levels of a hormone associated with stress; levels that are associated with chronic health problems and may affect glucose regulation, immune functioning and mental activity. These low levels were also consistent with people experiencing chronic stress, such as soldiers in combat.
Researchers followed up on Seltzer’s study with the same group of mothers. Interviews were conducted about how they spent their days and compared with data from a national sample of neurotypical developing children.
Mothers of children with autism reported spending at least two hours more each day care-giving than mothers of neurotypical children. They were also interrupted at work on average one out of every four days compared to less than one in 10 days for other moms. Lastly, mothers of children with autism were twice as likely to be tired and three times as likely to have experienced a stressful event.
“On a day-to-day basis, the mothers in our study experience more stressful events and have less time for themselves compared to the average American mother,” stated Leann Smith, a developmental psychologist working on the study. “We need to find more ways to be supportive of these families.”
Despite the bad news about stress and moms, research also shows that mothers of children with autism and other developmental disabilities were just as likely to have positive experiences each day, volunteer or support their peers as parents of children that were neurotypical. Identifying and managing stress is an important step towards also enjoying the experiences that are more positive.”
“Autism Moms Have Stress Similar to Combat Soldiers.” Disability Scoop. November 10, 2009.
“A 2009 Nobel Prize, Stress and Bullying at Work.” Workplace Bullying Institute. October 26, 2010.
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