Mothers of children with autism have stress levels similar to combat soldiers


Marsha Malick, Phd is the respected Director of the Waisman Center in Madison, WI, an authority on families of children with developmental disabilities, and the leader of an ongoing longitudinal study of families of individuals with autism.

Marsha Malick, Phd

A published finding on November 10, 2009 claims that Mothers of children with autism have stress levels similar to combat soldiers. “For the “daily diary” study, mothers were contacted at the end of each day and asked a series of questions about time use, episodes of fatigue, leisure activities and stressful events. The data were compared with a nationally representative sample of mothers of children without disabilities drawn from a study known as MIDUS (Study of Midlife in the U.S.), directed by Carol D. Ryff, a UW-Madison professor of psychology.”

“We need to find more ways to be supportive of these families,” says Smith, noting that the added care giving burden and potential health problems associated with chronic stress can be a devastating combination.”

I contacted Dr. Marsha’s office on July 20, 2010 and spoke to Eric schafer@waisman.widc.edu. I am awaiting for some words of encouragement to moms who have been so anxious due to their stress, that the courts actually twisted that around as mental illness, and for the ‘safety’ of the child, handed custody over to the father. Most often, those fathers are in denial about the autism from the start which puts the child’s best interest at serious risk. How heartbreaking.

Myra, a mother in Colorado writes an all too familiar story “the reason I lost custody was because our child was diagnosed with Autism and the court felt our child would be better taken care with his father because he can afford private therapies.” All Myra asks for is your prayers.

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4 Responses to Mothers of children with autism have stress levels similar to combat soldiers

  1. Amy says:

    I do not pretend to understand the stress associated with combat, but I do know I feel profound sadness, stress, and helplessness more often than not. While I am lucky that my husband is not in denial (he was a special education teacher), our opinions about what to do in increasingly frightening situations is diverging in a rapid fashion. My heart is with you and all the other parents of these precious, mind-boggling kids. We are all in a strange fraternity we didn’t ask to join. Thank you for writing this blog!

  2. I can appreciate the findings of this study, but why does it overlook the role of Fathers of children with autism and the impact the care for their child has on them? It seems blatantly gender biased to me.

  3. evanlee21 says:

    I lost custody of my son to an abuser. The abuser is a wanted fugitive, he has history of criminal and civil charges, and has refused to admit my son has a disability. The abuser was committed to an institution by the state in the past and has a grudge against doctors. And somehow Family Court has decided all of this makes him trustworthy!
    The abuser says I am at fault for my son’s symptoms bc I fled the home after he attacked me, so now the kids miss him. All the kids need to be normal is to have dad in thier life again. The abuser says I am crazy. I am making this up bc I want help for myself. And bc we shared joint custody I was prevented from getting help for my son, it was heart breaking to watch this little child suffer so much!

    The Court sided with the abuser, in part bc the GAL was biased and she had no knowledge (and refused to learn anything or contact witnesses) of Aspbergers. The GAL told me I was wrong to contact Children’s Crisis when I needed help–and this is when my son is beating me up and threatening to jump out a window! The GAL ignored that my son made allegations of abuse vs father and also has tried to run away from father’s home. The GAL ignored the father’s behavior was triggering my son and causing him to act worse–you don’t swear at, hit or break the toys of a child as a form of discipline and for a child with Aspberger’s it will cause their symptoms to increase. I would get my son from the father’s home and this child would be all wound up, and ready to explode. He was literally falling apart. I did everything I could to get help, and this made me lose custody. I can only see my children in supervised visitation (and they are praising my parenting skills!)

    The kicker? Now that the abuser has custody the amnesia lifted and he is proud to show off his little genius with Aspbergers! The abuser loves all the attention he is getting. He is getting financial help. He stopped working, went on Welfare, and is enjoying himself all day long. And even better, he doesn’t actually have to raise my son! My son spends all day in special schools and programs, from 8am-6pm. My son gets respite care on weekends. And in-home PCA services. If my son was with me, he’d get help but be home after school–with a family.

    The stress of raising a child with Aspbergers is nothing compared to the hell of family court. And then to watch your child suffer, and be forced to live with the person who caused all this pain..only God gets me through.

    I appreciate the support and information your blog offers. Its sad that I come here to lift my spirits..no family should be treated this way by family court, its a disgrace!

    • Justice 4 Kids says:

      Evenlee21, everything that has happened to you has happened to many fathers, too — even if the kids do not have autism.

      Kids do best with two loving parents in their lives. Sometimes one of their parents, however, is an abuser who is willing to hurt the children and lie and perjure to hurt the other parent. Often these people are very good at manipulating other people to attack the other parent. They are essentially sociopaths, able to charm and control many other people into helping them harm their children’s other parent. There are parents of both genders who do this. And they are frequently rewarded for their malicious lies and helped to further damage the children.

      It sounds like your ex is a sociopath who has been very capable of falsely painting you as the problem parent.

      Sociopaths In Our Midst Hate the Truth and Its Advocates

      What is the one thing a sociopath does not want other people to know? The truth. More specifically, sociopaths do not want the truth about them to be known as they are insecure, malicious, and devious people. Beyond being embarrassed by the truth of their behaviors and thoughts, they have a deathly fear of being exposed and rejected. That’s in large part because they use lies, manipulations, and distortions to control other people and get what they want. If others were to know about their true nature, they realize that most would want nothing to do with them. They would lose the support networks of malicious minions they control and incite to abuse other people. Therefore sociopaths have a strong motivation to attack, discredit, harass, and ruin anybody who presents arguments and facts that might tend to raise questions and doubts about their behaviors and their false statements.

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