Mothers of Special Needs Children Have More Significant Health Issues and Benefit from Peer-Led Program

6171900_webVANDERBILT – Researchers from Vanderbilt University have just completed a one of a kind research study in the field of autism spectrum disorders. The findings presented in the journal Pediatrics earlier this monthwere discovered by lead author Dr. Elisabeth Dykens and her team of psychologists at the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, suggests that mothers of children with autism could use tailor made treatments to de-stress.

Elisabeth Dykens Ph.D says,

“The well-being of this population is critically important because, compared to parents of typically developing children, parents of children with developmental disabilities experience substantially higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, and as they age, physical and medical problems.”

Dykens adds,

“Our research and findings indicate that many mothers of children with disabilities have a blunted cortisol response, indicative of chronic stress.”

The research team trained mothers of children with disabilities to be mentors for the peer program and each participant received  four months of training. Two  programs: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Positive Adult Development (PAD) were utilized. The mothers of children diagnosed with autism who participated in the peer led program found that they were less stressed, anxious and depressed and felt a stronger connection with their children regardless of the program in which they participated.

Future studies will include how fathers and mothers both faired in the interventions and the health status and medical conditions Dykens and colleagues will also look at the differences in civilian versus military parents of children with developmental disabilities.

The original article by Jennifer Wetzel can be read on the Vanderbilt website here.