In particular, new studies involve mothers of children with autism and show that those who have been taught “stress-reduction” skills have lessened depression and anxiety. According to the author of a recent study, Alisabeth Dykens, (Professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University) “Interventions have, for good reasons, been focused on the child, but what was missing was directly addressing parents’ own well-being and health. It’s really important to provide them with the tools they can use to manage their stress, and continue to grow as a parent.”
Current research shows that the parents of children with autism can benefit from treatments designed specifically for them. The researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee found that the mothers of children with autism who took part in a coping skills program connected better with their children and felt less stress, anxiety and depression.
Autism – The Parents
Vanderbilt’s researchers created two programs to potentially help the mothers of children with autism. They recruited 243 such mothers to participate.
Two thirds of the mothers in the study had children with autism and one third had children with other types of developmental disabilities. When the study began, 85% of the mothers had elevated stress levels, 48% were clinically depressed and 41% suffered from anxiety.
The two programs focused differently.
- Group One: Focus on meditation, breathing exercises and mind/body practices like yoga
- Group Two: Focus on positive psychology, which taught mothers to focus on the positive aspects of their lives.
Each program provided a weekly 90-minute session for six weeks. The progress of the mothers was tracked for up to six months after the completion of the program. The findings showed that both programs lead to substantial reductions in stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, the mothers involved in the study reported improved sleep patterns and a better satisfaction with their lives.
Interestingly, the program that focused on meditation, breathing exercises and mind/body practices like yoga showed greater improvement than the positive psychology program.
Autism Speaks August 2014 Pediatrics