Print Print

Autism Moms Have Stress Similar To Combat Soldiers

By

Text Size  A  A

Mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers and struggle with frequent fatigue and work interruptions, new research finds. These moms also spend significantly more time caregiving than moms of those without disabilities.

Researchers followed a group of moms of adolescents and adults with autism for eight days in a row. Moms were interviewed at the end of each day about their experiences and on four of the days researchers measured the moms’ hormone levels to assess their stress.

They found that a hormone associated with stress was extremely low, consistent with people experiencing chronic stress such as soldiers in combat, the researchers report in one of two studies published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

“This is the physiological residue of daily stress,” says Marsha Mailick Seltzer, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who authored the studies. “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.”

Such hormone levels have been associated with chronic health problems and can affect glucose regulation, immune functioning and mental activity, researchers say.

In a companion study, the researchers followed up with the same group of mothers daily to interview them about how they used their time, their level of fatigue, what leisure activities they participated in and whether or not stressful events occurred. This information was then compared with data from a national sample of mothers whose children do not have disabilities.

Mothers of those with autism reported spending at least two hours more each day caregiving than mothers of children without disabilities. On any given day these moms were also twice as likely to be tired and three times as likely to have experienced a stressful event.

What’s more, these moms were interrupted at work on one out of every four days compared to less than one in 10 days for other moms.

Despite all of this, mothers of an individual with autism were just as likely to have positive experiences each day, volunteer or support their peers as those whose children have no developmental disability, researchers found.

“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,” says Leann Smith, a developmental psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who worked on the studies. “We need to find more ways to be supportive of these families.”

In particular, the researchers say that parents need better respite options and flexibility from their employers. Further, they say, programs to help manage behavior problems can go a long way toward improving the situation for mothers and their kids alike.

More in Autism »

Search Jobs

Post a Comment

Disability Scoop welcomes comments, but all submissions are moderated and will not appear until they are approved. Please keep your remarks brief and refrain from inserting links. In order to maintain a respectful dialogue, comments that are promotional, off-topic, unoriginal or those that contain offensive language or make personal attacks will not be published.

Comments (219 Responses)

  1. Marc says:

    What about dads? I guess we aren’t active caregivers so we don’t count. Give me a break. Hey researchers, WAKE UP!

  2. haddayr says:

    What Marc said; why on earth didn’t the researchers look at dads, too? My husband is the stay-at-home parent, and many, many parents work as a team — especially parents of disabled kids!

    That said, the results of this study didn’t surprise me. When are the parents of autistics going to get enough supports so that they aren’t so constantly stressed out?

  3. luje35 says:

    I agree on both Autistic Mom’s and Dad’s have high level of stresses to deal with. Hsw about parent’s and caregiver’s of MR/Down’s/physically disabled/-syndrome after syndrome. We all have high level of stresses to deal with. We all need suppport not just in autism.

  4. Mary Fletcher Jones says:

    I have been a parent of a child with autism for 11 years and part of the disability community for nearly as long. For 10 of those years, I have been a divorced parent. This study is valid and important. No study has to be all encompassing to be valuable. No one is saying men don’t help parent their children, and don’t suffer stress as caregivers, but OVERWHELMINGLY when you look at the population as a whole, on my observation, it is the moms who are in therapy waiting rooms and doctor’s offices — and I have been in scores of them — at least 10:1 if not more. Overwhelmingly, it is mothers who are the primary caregivers; the ones who are called in to school to deal with illness or behavior issues. I don’t personally know one man who suspended or gave up his career to address their kid’s needs, but I know of PLENTY of moms who did, including me, a single mom, and I had shared custody.

  5. Blondie50 says:

    I agree with the above poster that talked about looking at both moms and dads. It takes a good team to deal with what we have in our homes.

    Also, why not look at those of us, including myself, who have two young adults living in our homes who have developmental disabilities? Sometimes, my son with Down syndrome is more stressful, especially because of all of his medical problems. Sometimes my son with Classic Autism is more stressful such as when his one to one aide is changed at school.

    We deserve combat pay! At least soldiers get to go home once in a while, and they had a choice to join the military. We continue to live it for years upon years with no end in sight and we did not necessarily choose this lifestyle. We need more supports that are reliable. For example, I am tired of having respite scheduled and it gets cancelled at the last minute, a new respite worker shows up with no training, or nobody shows up at all. Then I have to deal with two young adults who don’t understand why nobody is coming. Now, that’s stressful!

  6. Coffeecake says:

    This is a very important article. I don’t believe that men are “left out”. I think that the writer meant, “caregiver parent”, but due to the fact that most often it is the mother, the writer just used “mother”. Of course the article pertains to whomever the parent caregiver is.

  7. Marc says:

    Mary, Let me be your first husband who has “sacrificed” his career to be a full time team member with my wife in raising our son. Yes, I do go to school meetings, vocational planning meetings, doctor’s appointments and have stayed overnight in the hospital several times. I worry and plan for the future. My wife and I are in this together, I rely on her and she relies on me. There is no primary care giver in our team. We are just two loving parents who will sacrifice everything to provide for our child. Are we unusual? I certainly hope not.

    Marc
    (Very happyily married for 28 years)

  8. singlemom says:

    I fully agree with the posters’ comments about dads being considered in a study such as this. However, I am assuming that a key part of this study was ommitted: that they researched *single parents* and thank God they did! Not to belittle the pain that couples go through, being a single parent of a special needs child is a totally different animal. There is no partner on which to rely on or trade out responsibilities. Here in Texas, there is a twelve year waiting list for *any* supported services, and that includes respite. There are relatively few support groups that meet the needs of single parents; for example, our one and only *local* AU support group meets at 7:30 p.m. My son *must* be heading towards bed at 7:30 – 8:00 p.m. Therefore, I cannot *tag team* to attend the support\informational meeting. My son was (wrongly) expelled from his last school multiple times this school year, and I was the sole person available to take time off of work to stay home with him. Whenever my son’s *father* is called to active duty in the reserves, we lose our child support for months thanks to a bureaucratic snafu. *I* absorb that hit, in addition to balancing the daily stresses of negotiating AU.

    While I’m very glad that attention is being paid to the tolls placed upon parents of special needs kids (esp. AU), I *really* wish more attention and services would be directed to sole caregivers of AU\special needs kids.

  9. dougs says:

    As a father of a child with autism, I think this article is spot on. What I find most stressful (given that I work and my wife stays home as the caregiver) is that I have to learn to live with my wife’s emotional roller coaster ride resulting from her stress. It’s a different kind of stress for me and I often have to bottle it in as my major role is of support. I’ve long given up any social life and have inentionally shyed away from jobs that require travel or long/odd hours. I need to be home as much as possible.

  10. Aysha says:

    Ok just reading all of the above quotes and I believe we are reading to much into this. I am a parent of a 13 year daughter with down syndrome and autism. All the challenges we face on a daily basis is hard work. I am fortunate to have a loving husband who is the step father of my daughters.He takes pride in learning and understanding the challenges that I faced before he entered our lives and I must say he does a damn good job on understanding and learning the day to day challenges. So this goes out to both mothers and fathers keep doing what you are doing and advocate for our children because if we don’t who will.

  11. sally says:

    My husband of 33 years as stood by my side and I would like to thank him for loving our son who is now 29 as much as I do. We have done a good job and have a happy family. We have had our day to day challenges, but we have also been there for each other.

  12. Fran Basche says:

    I am sure in fact that they only picked mothers, and not necessarily single mothers, because they needed enough of a sample size of one type of person. Wouldn’t work from a research standpoint to have six mothers and two fathers.

    Fathers often don’t volunteer as much for these kind of studies. That said, they could try to find eight fathers with significant caregiver time of their child to compare it to the mothers.

    My ex is a wonderful and totally involved father of our child with Autism, but I know many other divorced (and still married) fathers who are not. There are some mothers who are not involved too, but for the most part, my experience has been meeting women whose ex’s spend much less (or barely any, or none at all) time taking care of their child with Autism.

  13. Norma says:

    What is the hormone?? This is a good story, but not a surprise. I’m entering menopause early because of the stress and constant sleep deprivation. I am not complaining – but it has definitely impacted my body in a major way, and my doc is checking hormone levels (among other things). We’re looking into bio-identical hormone replacement (low level) supplements to help me feel better. There’s more information to be had…there may be options for moms, especially those in their 40s and older, to help them care for themselves a little better. AND – yes, autism dads rock! My husband is fiercely dedicated to our son and extremely involved 24/7.

  14. VerbalFlax says:

    Here’s an idea for follow-up piece:

    Pentagon Investigates Autism-Dad Invisibility Phenomenon for Combat-Soldier Protection

    The Pentagon reported today that the Disposable Dads Advanced Research Projects Agency (D-DARPA) has awarded a major new research contract to a subsidiary of the J. M cCarthy Innovative Science for the HOmeland Territory, also known by its acronym JMcCarthy IS HOT. JM IS HOT will be investigating potential new applications of the now well-established principle that hot moms with autistic kids are 300x more effective at overshadowing the tireless and thankless work of fathers in favor of the equally demanding work of mothers.

    “We think this is an important phenomenon, because this ability to be continuously succeed at being totally dismissive of dad’s has been amazingly resilient even in the face of mountains of evidence that the stresses on dads is equally severe. These Autism Dads continue to be resilient in carrying out their duties as a parent, to a degree that requires an unusual level of tenacity given biological anthropological imperatives of the male to diversify their procreation base,” said the Pentagon spokesperson. “To us, it makes no sense– their contributions are largely ignored and unsupported, and yet they continue to perform, becoming even more invisible the harder they work. We think this could have some applications for protecting our combat soldiers in the field.”

  15. Crobinsonrocca says:

    I have read the comments with a bit of amusement… the reality is that when there is a two parent family, most of the caregiving falls to the mother, regardless of whether the children have a disability. It is rare to find a father who is cooking the meals, washing the clothes, packing the school lunches, doing the housework, etc. on a regular basis. I am 45 years old so perhaps the ‘younger generation’ is a bit more evenly distributed for household duties. The way it worked in our house was that my husband had a good paying job so he went off to work each day to make the money to pay for the therapy and other necessities of life. I stayed home and tended to the daily household tasks which included running ABA programs for our multiple children on the spectrum. His stress was different than mine but I am sure it was just as bad. We’ve talked a lot about what it was like in those dark days before recovery and he admits that he often stayed late at work to avoid coming home to the misery — including how I was feeling/acting at the time. I spent a lot of time feeling like I was a prisoner in my home. But, really, the bottom line is this: nobody forces you to become a parent; you volunteer for the job… and nobody promised you an easy time of it either. Yeah, it sucks to have a child that isn’t perfect and requires more work and sacrifice than the neighbour’s kid but you have to play the hand you are dealt… what determines your character is how you play that hand. We chose to be stoic to the outside world, rage at each other about life’s unfairness and show our children the strength and determination they needed to get through the tunnel. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the ability to perform in spite of it. If more parents spent last time bemoaning their situations and more time figuring out how to have their best life I think we would all be a little happier.

  16. snadel says:

    Please do not forget that there are actually some single fathers of children with autism out there. One wonders why there is really no research on this subgroup. There’s some research on mothers and fathers that does separate the results of mothers and fathers. But we are left with only a few unscientific testimonials about being a single father.

    As someone who raised a son with autism as a single father for four years (I’m now married but I am still a primary caregiver), I know that it is very difficult. Single mothers have others to go to for support, but single fathers have no one. We are not accepted in any primarily mothers’ groups, and married dads, if they ever get together, really do not experience the same path. I can tell you that I had the physical symptom of a hammer hitting me over the head every morning. Yet, it actually went away when my present wife moved in.

    If anyone is interested in what the research is out there about fathers of ASD, in general, I did an exhaustive literature review as part of my comprehensive exams for my doctorate. I’d be happy to pass it along.

  17. rasheeda_waters says:

    Wow my reaction to this article is shocking to me I had no idea of the stress levels these women with autism children and I’m glad that they have services available to help the parent and child manage some problems.

  18. cornwall says:

    Depending on the timeframe in terms of the age of the child I could say that any of us having children with disabilities fall in the same category as the mothers in this research. It isn’t always about autism!!!!

  19. donna28 says:

    It may not be that researchers are ignoring fathers. You can’t compare hormones because obviously men and women have different ones at different levels. It’s apples and oranges.

  20. Heavenly59 says:

    I am glad to hear from so many committed dads. My ex- was 45 when our son was born in 1987. Although his inability to accept or later, to understand, my son’s diagnosis undoubtedly caused his own stress, my son has always been my responsibility. My ex-husband faithfully attended IEP meetigs, and still attends ISP meetings. We live in RI; when my son turend 18, my ex moved to Floriday with his new wife without even giving me a heads-up that he was going to do so. Although he spends some time every year back in RI, in the 8 years we have been apart, my son has spent fewer than a dozen nights under his father’s roof. His new wife is a former special ed teacher, and has been very good to my son.
    However, there is no help with the day-to-day issues others have cited–paperwork as he entered adulthood, doctor and dental appointments, etc. I am remarried, and my husband spends more time with Andrew than his father ever did. Because of his patience, Andrew has learned some good landscaping
    skills, and other work habits, and still lives with us happily at 23, although he is looking forward to his own place in the near future. My ex is now 68–he is perhaps, of a different generation. I think the younger dads , even in their 50′s and 40′s seem more involved with their children in general, and also with their children with disabilities. This is a good thing. But to the woman who says she sees 10 moms for every dad in waiting rooms, at school meetings, etc. I say this is still my experience as well. But I see a lot more dads at playgrounds,, restaurants, and other public places, who are obvious deeply involved in the caregiving of their disabled child. Although they may overlap, the sexes have different strengths. As long as we work together for our children, that’s fine!

  21. AlanonRelative says:

    I agree that it is hard and I sympathize to an extent. That being said, why does everyone expect help or respite care or anything else? Having children is a CHOICE. Imperfect children are a very real risk people should consider when deciding to be a parent. I think parents should own it and move on instead of complaining about the help they do not get.

  22. KateGladstone says:

    Hasn’t anybody looked at the stress levels of us folks who actually *have* the conditions?
    From what I observe and experience, I believe that we folks on the spectrum have even more and higher stresses than our parents.

  23. gallagirl says:

    Combat soldiers suffer from “post traumatic stress syndrome”. The irony with parents of children with autism is there is no “post”. It is ongoing and everchanging as our children age.

  24. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    In reading the comments, there are many questions about why not dads? or why not other disabilities?….
    The answer to those questions is in the practice of research. One of the reasons I went back to higher education was to figure out how the researchers think.

    From the information in the article, this is a study of 10 moms for 8 days in a row.

    Big Whip! It’s appalling, it’s ridiculous to think it is such a small sample, but that is how research is conducted.

    All parents, first of all is it a surprise to any of us that the final results showed we have more stress? But just because we all know it, our “opinions” are not scientific. We live it, we don’t research it. We get researched upon. We are the subjects. And in this world, only the “professionals” data and results count.

    But that is not how research is done and researchers think and people who make the rules base it on scientific best practice. So we have to learn the rules of the game and just like we then make sure they play fair.

    So, don’t get too excited. Great, this study (of 10 moms) is a start in the right direction, but this research will not even be validated as real until the results are repeated in other studies.

    It’s just research. If we can learn something from it, if we can improve our lives or our childrens’ then great. Take it at face value.

    And, we can insist they start to conduct more studies.

  25. PhilS32767 says:

    I am a parent of an autistic son and I concur with Kate Gladstone.
    I’d also like to point out that many of the major autism organizations, Autism Speaks the biggest among them, use fear and pity to fundraise and establish media presence. This only exacerbates the situation. It not only elevates levels of parental stress, it sends terrified parents running into the arms of the burgeoning quack autism “treatment” industry.
    Autism, and parenting autistic children, does *not* have to be a tragedy. As just one example of change for the better (by the way, consistently advocated for by adults living *with* autism themselves, at all points on the spectrum): if only a fraction of the amount that Autism Speaks and other major autism organizations spend on advertising based on FUDD (fear, uncertainty, doubt, and dread) were instead spent on ensuring that every autistic child who does not acquire expressive speech is guaranteed literacy education and training in and use and ownership of text-to-speech and other types of AAC (alternative and augmentative communication) devices, so that maladaptive behavior does not become the means of expressive communication of last resort — which it *will* in the presence of acute need and the absence of better alternatives — there would be a *huge* reduction in the number of tragic horror stories of out-of-control behavior and empty lives.

  26. rnbsn38 says:

    First of all I would like to take the time to comment on the AlalonRelative’s comment. A child with a disability is NOT an “imperfect” child. All children, with or without disabilities are perfect children. Secondly, until you have experienced the joys and stress of supporting an adolescent/ adult with Autism you cannot understand the need for respite. Parents with children who do not have a disability hire babysitters so they can go out at night up until the child is old enough to stay home independently. Then that child becomes an adult and the need for a babysitter is a mute point. A parent of a child with a disability needs a babysitter who is specially trained to care for child with a disability so we are not talking about the neighborhood teenager. Further more, depending on the severity of the disability the child/adolescent/adult with a disability may never be able to stay home alone while the parent goes out to get much needed socialization, grocery shopping, stress release etc. I am a parent of an adult diagnosed with Autism and a moderate intellectual disability and I also work in the field that support adults with intellectual disabilities as a Registered Nurse so I am exposed to a variety of people with a variety of intellectual disabilities. People with Autism have sensory sensitivities that people with other types of intellectual disabilities may not suffer from, that may cause a hardship for them when they are out in the community. With that said, it is at times more difficult for a person with Autism to be active in the community. As a parent of an adult son with autism, I want to expose him and give him every oppurtunity to be active in the community as I can. I can honestly say that it can be very stressful as a parent wondering if my son is going to become overwhelmed by the enviromental stimuli when out in the community and demonstrate a challenging behavior. So the need for services is very real for parents who are supporting children and adult children with disabilities to increase the person’s with disabilities quality of life.
    I also want to say Kuddos to all you dads out there that are very involved with their children with disabilities. I am a single mother and have raised my son with Autism and two other children alone for the last 25 yrs. My son’s father has not seen my son with Autism for over three years but he does visit with the other two sons.
    I agree with what Mary E. Ulrich states in regards to this being only one study but a start. This study does give a scientific basis to what we all knew all along. I am sure in the future there will be studies that include fathers and both parents when researching stress levels of parents who support children with disabilities. This is only the beginning…

  27. feliciad37 says:

    I have a child with autism. For a period of 2 years I was working 6 day work weeks. This was required for my job. At that time my son who was 8 years old was having melt downs at school. The school was calling me at work to come and help them. The stress was unbelieveable, I can see how a mothers stress could be the same as a combat solider.

  28. defying0gravity says:

    To all,
    You should stop complaining about how hard you work. It is just as hard for siblings. I am a sister of a 12, almost 13 year old severely autistic brother, who does not talk, is not even potty trained and cannot even dress himself. I have to explain to so many people why my brother is different, and you try explaining to a three year old, why my brother cannot talk and why he is different. At school, I have to remind people daily to stop making fun of the kids in the autism program, which is also at my school. You talk about how you are so stressed. But guess what. Who gets less attention from her parents? me Who has to stick to HER brothers schedule? me. but of course, since i am not the parent i get no recognition. It would be nice to not here you complain, and to be grateful, that it is not worse. It could be so much worse.

  29. Kim Butler says:

    I am thankful for this early research study done. I am the parent of a 15 year old severely autistic young man who is non verbal and highly aggressive. He is unable to attend school due to the severity of aggression – we have a full blown ABA program here at home and the cost of this is overwhelming. My husband and I have aged 15 years in the last 5 years. My 16 year old daughter has been shuffled and adjusted around his schedule. Everyone is this family has sacrificed for him in order to keep him at home with us where he belongs. To get some respite time would be such a blessing and may add some value to my family member’s lives. Until you live it – please don’t verbally attack these families – you have no idea what each individual family is dealing with and that a little respite could be the difference in the loss of a child to an institution or worse.

  30. dnh says:

    We have both an Autistic son age 10 and another son diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, aniexty OCD.
    Our autistic son is very loving, sweet, usually very happy, never complains about going to school and
    he is very obediant. He does not stress us out nearly as much as our son with ADHD. He on the other hand is extrememly strong willed and controlling. He tries to control the whole family. I do feel like my Autistic son is probably affected more by anxiety over how he deosn’t understand others sometimes or the way people react to him. Those things really bother him. People acting like he’s weird is what bothers me the most and worry what would happen if my husband and I passed away, I feel like no one would understand my Autistic son like we do. He does things so different and he requires a lot of explanations on a daily basis. He and I are so close that I can’t imagine him not going into a major depression with out me to be here for him. I do so much for him and no one gives him the love like I do. I am 45 and my husband is 53. We also have 2 daughters age 5 and 2, so we are older parents and have no friends who relate to our situation what so ever. Even our own families don’t at times. Traveling for us has been difficult, I can’t begin to tell you. I just wish that people would understand that unless you’ve been in someones shoes, you have no clue what they go through. I always know there’s two sides to a story and my story with my sons disabilities can be very stressful at times to the point where we don’t socialize nearly as much as we did prior to having children and the fact that people don’t understand why we don’t have time hardly anymore, at least while they are so young is what bothers me personally. Children require so much attention and I hate having to feel guilty for having to put things on hold until my children are somewhat more self sufficient, but as a responsible loving parent, my children is my first priority. Thankfully my husband and I both feel we are doing what is in the best interest of our family most of the time. I wish our families would understand how it makes it harder to socialize with 4 kids.
    People need to understand that even doing homework with a child with adhd can sometimes take twice or three times as long as it would with a normal child. I feel like I could write a book on all this. I just know that my having children with disabilities makes me so much more understand about people who have their own children with disabilities, I can usually relate to them on some level better than some of my own family members.

  31. tshearer says:

    I find it a little bit irritating that someone says well you joined the military so that’s what you get….I am married to a 8 year active duty Army officer and yes he has been to Iraq several times. That is hard, very hard, but yes, it doesn’t last forever….on that note, some people come back from war and DO LIVE WITH IT EVERYDAY, the rest of there lives. These people should be thanked! Because of these men and women we have FREEDOM!! :)……We have 2 children a 4 yr old son with severe Autism and a typical 2 yr old little girl. Our son needs constant care and will for years to come. We chose to have our son and although our daughter was a surprise I wouldn’t change it for the world. Grant is an amazing little boy and when he smiles it melts your heart. Is it stressful??? Yes of course it is. But I am able to deal with this stress. The hardest part of all of it is when your Childs other parent can’t be there bc of military obligations. (No this is not the same as another job. you can quit your job and find another one. If you try to just walk away from the Army you go to jail.) Even MOST single parents have the other person come to CAT scans and other test that require your child being put under. The worst part is when your child is sick and cant say ‘mom my tummy hurts’……So do I think alot of moms or dads have problems coping? Yes. But I don’t understand why. My husband is a soldier and gone most of the time. Leaving me a ‘single’ parent to do everything Grant needs and take care of our little girl. Praying no one knocks on my door to tell me he isnt coming home alive. So even with both these stresses I take no medications, don’t smoke, drink, or over eat. My family is blessed! God knew what he was doing when he gave me my husband, the Army, our son, Autism, and our little girl.

  32. LSC says:

    The thing that is good with this type of research is that it gives credence about what we say and experience to those who don’t or can’t understand. So it could be used to improve access to services at some point because there is more “objective” proof for what we tell them. It isn’t just us being weak, stressed out for no reason, and/or exaggerating, self-pity Moms (and Dads, for those who are as hands on).

  33. caz08 says:

    I am a mum of a daughter with autism and i have bipolar 2 myself. I also have a supportive ex-husband when he is able to help (in between work hours).
    Is there a need for so many negative comments on this article? The point of this research is to try to help those with AUTISM, their parents, family and friends! There is research being done on many other disabilities as well! (i know there is research done on the impact of Down Syndrome, bipolar, fathers/ single fathers who look after children with disabilities, add/adhd, sibling stress, children with cancer, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, blindness/deafness, and so on). Depressing to see a lot of commenters are trying to prove to each other who has the worst life! We ALL should be supporting each other, no matter the disability, we ALL go through this ‘Combat stress’! Please show some respect for each other on here and please don’t get angry at the researchers for this article. They are just trying to help! Every bit of help goes a long way……for everyone.
    Kudos for those of you who appreciate and praise people in your life who help you day to day! Love your comment Sally! :-)

  34. Marcieperry says:

    Being parents and caregivers to a person with a disability is extremely stressful. Its not just Autism. Caring for Physically challenged persons can be very stressful, especially when their bodies don’t flex & bend as you need them to-their muscles spasm when they need to, not you; your day starts with and ends with the physical challenge of caring for the physically chalthenge. You can be worn out just getting them ready for school. Think about MR and epilepsy, downs syndrome, and the list goes on. ANY DISABILITY CAN CAUSE STRESS TO THE PERSON WITH THE DISABILITY AND THE PARENTS/CAREGIVERS. Its not all about Autism.

  35. suzec1 says:

    Finally, I felt validation after reading this article…this kind of life can be very stressful, but when the magic moments come, boy does this make up for all the suffering and makes us glad we have these children that GOD created just perfectly…..my son is living with me since the divorce and I enjoy any moment that we share that special laugh together….he is soon to be 24 this year. This is the first time I have seen an article like this one…I will post to others for sure…every little thing that helps us feel better…Amen

  36. margomouse says:

    A couple of points I find interesting here…… First of all- the title says “Autism Moms Have Stress Similar To Combat Soldiers” NOT “ONLY Autism Moms Have Stress Similar To Combat Soldiers,” or “ONLY MOMS of children with Autism Have Stress Similar To Combat Soldiers”— SO read it for what it IS! It is NOT false advertising. I am the proud mother of 2 boys with autism, ages 12 and 10. I was told years ago by the mother of a girl with Downs syndrome- that she was more lucky than I. (Interesting her perspective). She KNEW before her baby was born that she had Down’s Syndrome- and my boys’ autism was obviously not visible in any blood work, ultrasounds or anything else. There was not any forewarning, it just comes in the middle of the night- and steals your “typically” functioning 18month old child- and gives you a whole new set of expectations, and a new life. I have also been told in the past year by a friend of mine who is the proud mother of a 13 year old daughter who has a SEVERE developmentally disability – who can’t swallow, speak, sit up on her own etc…… that she has it MUCH EASIER than I. I had always thought of it the other way around, however she watched me as I nervously chased around my boys at a fun evening social event- never sitting down and relaxing ALWAYS 2 steps behind my boys. Her response was that her daughter was essentially like an infant- she couldn’t move around enough to get into “trouble”, didn’t have behavior problems, could be relatively easily cared for by someone else if they were taught how to run her tube feedings etc…., and thus SHE had a much more peaceful life. YES she wasn’t without stress, but NO she didn’t endure the same type of stress that I had- in that a few minutes of my son left alone could result in water pouring into the downstairs kitchen from the upstairs bathroom. Her daughter did not obviously have the same independence as a “typically” functioning child- but at the same time- the intensity of the stress was much different than mine. So NO this isn’t a competition of who’s life is worse……. let’s look at what this article means and be THANKFUL that someone is paying attention to the needs of parents with children with disabilities in GENERAL!!!! If this article was about mothers of children with Downs syndrome- I would be welcoming the attention and support as well.

  37. caz08 says:

    Margomouse……just thinking….maybe we should have a party just for families and young children with autism. We can say hi as we run near each other while chasing our little cherubs around the place. It’s technically socialising! Will also keep us fit! We can even grab food for each other when we get the chance to pass any food tables! Feel exhausted already thinking about it! Combat soldier i definately am not! You would think that after many years of chasing my energetic and very curious daughter around, i would be fighting fit! lol. :-)

  38. ladyinred says:

    As a mother of a 43 year physically challenged individual I can say that what causes us the most stress is dealing with all the agencies and getting needed services for our loved ones. Not to mention the paper work too.

  39. Excop says:

    All the comments that pinpoint Dad’s v Mom’s is just asinine. Why is always me, me, I, I, It is totally stupid. The stress is on BOTH parents not just the Mother or the Father, the hell with those of you that are stay home Dad’s and Mom’s, what it should be about is the child. I have been a stay at home Dad and I will never look for any tea and sympathy for tending to the needs of my son and that is to care for him, To all of you that say well what about the Dad, STOP your whining, that is your child as well. To the study I say spend the money on finding out what is causing this epidemic and just this stop the poor me talk. Grow up, the child is the one suffering.

  40. Irishrose13 says:

    I am a 62 yr. old single Mother of a 35 yr. old DS man, who lives with me. He has had behavioral problems his entire life, and has had many different medications to help him. The stress level in our home is crazy! He can go from being fine to totally angry in 5 seconds…no meds stop this…it’s just him! I have been punched, kicked, hit, shoved, & had 911 called on many occasions too. Our crisis center has no idea what to do, except prescribe another medication & send him back home w/ me. I have been told that the only way I will ever get help is to literally abandon him & refuse to bring him home. I cannot & will not do that to my son!!
    Besides his disability, he is diabetic too, so life is very difficult here! It is stressful for any parent of a person with a disability. It annoys me when I hear so much news/help being offered to the Autistic population. I have been trying my entire life to get my son help, and believe me, in NJ, it is limited. We don’t even have family doctors, who are familiar with them. Many times, I have been asked what I thought should be done! Someone needs to help all of us! We all deserve combat pay, and yes, I am one of the ones, who gave up working ft because of my stress level and my son!

  41. missoz says:

    Dads, I thank you, you are there when us moms fall apart, crumble at the end of the day you are there, Single Dads, you are to be commended, thanked, I hope you all have therapies in place that ARE adequate, well trained adn knowledgeable.
    Researchers tend to follow a trail before the can ethically get to the root of the issue, if they do. what distrubs me about the portrayal in this article of the researh study is it leaves readers with a very negative impression. Downright Orwellian, this is one of the areas where peolpe who are not involved with ASD, Schizoprhenia, Downs, they simply do not understand why we cannot stand articles like this.

    Ok, first off after following the link to the study, the study is qualitative, numbers:) Not a grand solution, numeric statistics, prevalence, occurence, determination. I have read part of the study ( 14 p.) either the researchers or the author of this article are not entirely familiar with the groups in the article.
    The study is compairing cortison levels of mothers with kids w/ the following ASD, ADD, Schizoprhenia, Bipolar and Downs, or trather those results were part of the smaple group moms. THe total of moms in the group was 86… Research studies can be huge, rather fast.
    As a parent of several young people in the particiapnt category( Autism, BiPolar, ADD & Schizophrenia, some of which is comorbid) We do become highly upset when we see studies that take place to .. count something yet they are not help.
    Dads:)))))) For those of you that do stick around and shoulder the load God Bless you, Be Good and take care of yourselves. My marriage is older than my child on the spectrum, My husband is amazing, I would be a wreck without him, so would my family. We do work as a team and that is the only way we maintain relative sanity.
    The gap betwen reseacrhcers what they research and us, huge. they have to generate a question define the particpant filed and then go find people representative of that group.
    PArt of me as a mother feels bad about having my cortisol elvels compared t that of a combat soldier, my husabnd is a Veteran, and there is a very different level of respect and thatnks to all service men and women. The study is more intereseted in their homrone levels. Not comparison of the actual two groups mothers of adolescents navigating ASD, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, ADD and Downs We , parents of kids with needs can be heck on earth, we need to be for our children, but with grace, & knowledge that, “hell hath no fury” has a time and a place, It is just like an IEP there are times where it is easy to follow the derailing red herring and become emotionally upset, we are not accomlpishing deductive, logical, progress when that happens, We are, however communicating you are not giving my child sub standard help.
    The article poses the research in an off, light. Part of the ethics of good research is that you must be familiar enough with the aprticipant community to express things with a fluency, respect and thorough understanding.

    Not an easy task form either side, Trained, knowledgable support is needed, not inadequate services or individauls we cannot trust with our kids. This study presents in a bad light which is NOT the case all the time, which is why we have to be able to wield the advocacy well.
    Possible solution.. researchers that raise young people with needs, with a support/ counseling to get research that will help our community, teamed with legal muscle to get what we need passed, enacted and funded.

  42. debrarae says:

    Marc is right. Dad’s care for the kids too, and their input is vital.

    As a mom with Aspergers, raising two girls with Aspergers … I made certain my husband was involved with the children.

    One thing that the researchers should have (and didn’t look into), is that when both parents work as a team; the ‘stress’ is far less than when it’s only 1 parent raising both kids.

    TO Marc and all the fathers who the researches ignored (through a over sight), I commend you for being a great dad and taking great care of your family.

  43. Miilanna says:

    I wish people didn’t always assume that the parents of autistic children (young or grown) are all neurotypical. Autistic parents are NOT uncommon, and we have both neurotypical AND autistic children. Why is there no awareness, tolerance or support for us?

  44. dolphin11479 says:

    I am a single mom with two boys with autism and it is very tiring especially trying to do it all. I agree with the article, but at the same they should have looked into those families that do have both parents. It is very hard trying to raise two autistic boys work and finish college myself. They need to think of all the children in these type of research programs because autism is so open in the spectrum that it can range from mild the severe.

  45. brownh2000 says:

    Raising other special needs kids is apparantly not worthy of research. Parents should count themselves lucky if their child is “only” a child with Down Syndrome or CP. Being the parent of a blind and deaf child is apparantly not stressful.

  46. Stanelle says:

    Very sad situation. There should be some sort of federal program for relief from stress for caregivers,..but this economy marks any such program would be the first to have it’s funding CUT!

  47. justanothermom says:

    Since autism is probably the largest growing category of disabling conditions, it is easy to understand the selection of “autism moms suffer combat stress…” as a study. When it all shakes out, there is really not much difference between the labels attached to our children and the stress of the job; comparing my autistic child is more difficult than your Down syndrome child (well, mine has both), or an autistic child vs. deaf and blind, mom vs. dad, etc. Do you get the picture? We are all in this together, part of the larger disability community. Can we make it better for everyone, instead of looking only at our differences?
    If getting a wheelchair ramp at a local auto dealers (because there are more disabled veterans coming back from Iraq) benefits all.

    In this era of budget cuts, don’t be fooled by politicians who divide (“we’re not like those…”) and cut programs (because we are by and large politically silent–our kids don’t vote and don’t spend huge amounts of money getting the politicos reelected). Be visible, speak out.

  48. machellklee says:

    when doing a study they have to have a control group and specific similarities to rule out to many variances tthat could make the results skewed. Mom’s and dad’s can see things diff on whats stressful and often have there own distinct way of parenting which is why a mom and dad working together can make a great team for their children (what about foster parents, grandparents or even adults taking care of ailing elderly parents. They also only chose one diagnosis…i could complain that they left out me whose child was severely disabled and i spent everyday keeping her alive and giving her whatever quality of life i could…how’s that for combat…so they had to be specific to make sure the results couldn’t be scraped, but i’m sure in the end it’s any caregiver to most any special needs child. Take a deep breath:)

  49. Chet Gunsmoke says:

    This is important research in that it gives a comparative base for the kind of stress that a dedicated person caring for a person with a serious disability like autism. This is not a contest to decide who in the panoply of caregivers has the most stress. The mother is among the most significant caregivers for persons with autism and many other disabilities. Therefore we can expect that as such the results of the study is probably a good indication of the kind and magnitude of stress dedicated personally involved caregivers contend with. Certainly the comparison to soldiers in combat clarrifies the level of stress they must face. Note: I am father of a 50 year old perso with autism.

Copyright © 2008-2014 Disability Scoop, LLC. All Rights Reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Reprints and Permissions