Monday, May 30, 2011

Stress of autism similar to that of combat soldiers

Today is Memorial Day 2011. As we all take a moment to remember the fallen that have protected our freedom, I thought it would be interesting to share an article that draws a comparison between combat soldiers and that of autism moms.
The article states, “Mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers and struggle with frequent fatigue and work interruptions. They found that a hormone associated with stress was extremely low, consistent with people experiencing chronic stress such as soldiers in combat.”
Now, this should come as no shock to those of us in the trenches, particularly those parents who have children functioning at a low to moderate level and/or who have concurrent medical conditions. Even though I am personally stressed out quite a bit with the raising of my boys, I know I cannot even begin to imagine what other parents go through with much more complex situations than that of my boys.
Another article along the same lines discusses stress among autism dads. “More than 30 percent of fathers of grown children with autism experience symptoms of depression so severe that they warrant clinical attention. Fathers of adolescents and young adults with autism experience high levels of depression and are pessimistic about what the future holds for their son or daughter, much more so than dads whose kids have other disabilities like Down syndrome and fragile X.”
As with the first article, I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. I have come to learn (from my own experience and that of my friends) that men process the diagnosis differently than women. They can really struggle moving forward into action mode. I think this is where symptoms of depression can easily come into play.
For good measure, I found one more article about the stress of autism from a study done locally at the University of Washington. “The parents in the autism group had higher levels of parenting stress and psychological distress compared to moms of children with disabilities without autism. They had higher levels of stress, but the relationship of the stress to problem behavior was different. Problem behavior accounted for more of the stress in moms of children with development delays without autism.”
If you are a parent to a child with autism you know what the stresses are. None of the information in any of these articles should be astonishing news. If anything, you now have undeniable proof that you are most definitely not alone in your experience.
Memorial Day weekend is a time to reflect on the service and sacrifices of our troops as well as relax and spend some time with your family. We are the veterans of autism and our duty is a lifetime of service. I hope you are able to take a moment to recognize and appreciate the daily efforts you make on behalf of your child.
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