Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Autism Care Takes Biological Toll On Mothers

Posted by on Jun. 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM
  • 2 Replies
  • 247 Total Views

Autism Care Takes Biological Toll On Mothers
Women who tend to teens, young adults with autism at home display unusually low levels of critical stress hormone By Bruce Bower. SCIENCENEWS.ORG
is.gd/QYXv

      Mothers with teenagers or young adults living at home face plenty of stress. If the young home-dwellers have been diagnosed with autism, the emotional intensity of caregiving surges dramatically in the mothers and may undermine the functioning of a critical stress hormone, a long-term study suggests.
      Over a five-year span, women who had children with autism living at home reported many more challenges in their daily lives than women caring for typically developing teens and young adults, reported psychologist Marsha Seltzer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on June 4 at the annual meeting of the Jean Piaget Society. Moms of children with autism spent nearly all of their time on caregiving activities, experienced an inordinate amount of daily fatigue, often got into arguments at home and at work, and reported having negative feelings far more often than positive ones.
      Analyses of saliva samples collected from women near the end of the study period showed that those caring for offspring with autism produced unusually low levels of the stress hormone cortisol throughout the day. In mothers caring for teenage or young adult children free of developmental problems, cortisol levels rose sharply throughout the morning and then declined to a level that still remained well above that of mothers tending to kids with autism.
      "We're seeing remarkably low levels of cortisol activation in mothers caring for their children with autism, which may reflect the toll taken by chronic stress and fatigue in their lives," Seltzer said.
      Cortisol is known to increase in response to stress, and is believed to be a response that helps people deal with threats.
      More than the language and social difficulties associated with autism, long-standing behavior problems of some diagnosed youngsters - including disobedience and physical aggression - showed a particularly close tie to mothers' lowered cortisol levels.
      Seltzer's new findings underscore the urgent need to teach parents practical techniques for effectively raising children with autism, commented psychologist Tony Charman of the University of London's Institute of Education. Charman and his colleagues have devised such a training program and find that many British parents of newly diagnosed kids welcome the assistance.
      Until now, no one has examined the biological responses of mothers caring for youngsters with autism, Seltzer said. Many researchers shy away from families of these children for fear of being associated with once influential but now discredited claims that bad parenting causes autism.
      It's still not clear whether low cortisol activation in mothers caring for autistic children represents an adaptive response that makes it possible to handle prolonged stress or a maladaptive response that fosters physical problems down the road. Seltzer's team plans to address this question by studying the same mothers over a total of 12 years.
      At this point, there's also no way to know if family members of people with autism and related conditions tend to produce low levels of cortisol in the absence of chronic stress. The researchers don't know whether women in the study had low cortisol levels before caring for a child with autism.
      Seltzer and her colleagues are studying 406 teens and young adults with autism, along with their immediate family members. Participants with autism are predominantly white, male and living with their parents in either Massachusetts or Wisconsin. The investigation began in 1998 and will conclude in 2010.
      Comparison families include mothers with comparable education, family income and marital status to mothers caring for children with autism.
      Mothers responded to interviews and questionnaires at three points during the study. Nearly five years after the study started, each mother also kept a diary of care-related feelings and events over eight consecutive days. Researchers collected four saliva samples from each woman on each of four diary days.

      NOTE: See FINANCES, "Downturn Puts a Chokehold on Those Caring for Family Members", below -editor.
      

by on Jun. 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-2):
MommyJanice44
by Head Admin on Jun. 9, 2009 at 11:56 AM

 I just so happen to be on the list for taking care of a severely autistic teen. The stress is constant all day care . Other then the fact than when my son was little the difference is huge in the aspect that you are facing the loss not only financially but physically taking care of his needs brushing his hair brushing his teeth , everything you would do for a 3 year old .. By the time they are 18 you are toast . The amount of work it takes daily to cope and to take care of my child is stressful to the point that even trying to take care of me is becoming difficult my health my nerves are shot .. They get so over powering that we become helpless to there needs and as what to do to stop the aggressive behaviour's to them-selves .. Yes I was told about the bad parenting by 3 or 4 psychologist's when my Son was little . Thank you for the articule . I do understand that yes even tho they haven't tested me on this  one I can say that I am a prime example of how  hard it is to do everything for a 5'9 200 pd adult that is fighting you 95 % of the time when in the process of doing any tasks hygiene's or on any given day just the ordinary day to day job of constant care wears at one soul after years and years of doing it and I am a single mom and have been doing this all by myself for the last 15 yr's .. So take it for what it is worth .. They grow up so do we like taking care of your 3 year old for 18 years .. thanks for the info .. I know what it does I feel it everyday .. At least someone is aware of what kind of stress we moms are under with teenagers that have no self help skills of there own . I am the self help ... I want my self tested for this , wondering why I have so much nerve damage in my body . This makes total sense to me .........

 

PROUD MOM , TO MY WONDERFUL SON KYLE  
                                     

                                                                                                                                

mamatware
by Bronze Member on Jun. 9, 2009 at 1:47 PM

This does not suprise me 1 bit.  It's been proven that anyone in a situation where they are having to care for another person-teen, adult, elderly parent, anything like that-the aging process gets fast forwarded because of stress, extra demands.   

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)