Teacher Professor

April 12, 2011

Happy Dads- Happier Moms

Filed under: Autism — Teacher Professor @ 8:21 am

Jones, L., Totsika, V., Hastings, R., Petalas, M., Dowey, A & Nash, S. (2011). Psychological well-being of couples with a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Presentation at the Gatlinburg Conference on Research and Theory in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, San Antonio, TX. March 2-4.

As promised, I said that I would share some of the results of the sessions that I attended at the Gatinburg Conference during the month of April- for Autism Awareness Month.

This group is from Wales- and apparently, Wales is a rockin’ place for autism research!  They looked at 160 couples who had a child with ASD.  Average age of parents were in their mid-40’s and the average age of the child was 10.  These are not newly-diagnosed parents- these were parents who had been in the “system” for a while.

I’m sure that it will surprise no one to learn that the the mother’s anxiety and depression was directly related to the child’s level of behavioral problems, level of symptoms, and pro-social behavior.  This is what I call “duh” research- but it has to be done in order to “prove” to funding agencies that the reason mothers are stressed out of their minds is because their child is struggling.  Sad that it has to be “proved”, but there you are. Good to know that research backs you up, hmmm?

But the really interesting thing about this presentation was the finding that dads were much more likely to have positive perceptions of their children with autism than the mothers.  The researchers suggested several reasons for this, including:

  • Dads tend to be less focused on the day-to-day situations
  • Dads tend to be less involved in the organization of a child’s life

And as a result, dads can take a “bigger picture” approach to their child’s issues.

And here’s another interesting finding: The more positive a dad was, the more positive the mom was– independent of the level of the autism. 

The biggest caveat the researchers stated is that these are the dads who have stuck around.  They also found that the longer a child had been diagnosed with autism, the happier the marriage was- but they also noted that that’s because they’re measuring marriages that lasted.  The unhappy marriages that had autism added to the mix broke up, and thus weren’t in the “happiness” measure later.  They very explicitly said that they did not recommend autism as a form of improving your marriage happiness level- there were wry chuckles throughout the audience.

So much of this research falls under “duh” research- but it was interesting to realize how much of my ability to balance my life and hold up under “those” times was dependent on my husband’s ability to make those inane cheerful comments- and to remind me of the good things of the children. While I tend to obsess about details, he looks at things from a broader perspective. 

Drives me crazy- but apparently, it makes me happier, too.  Thank you, honey.

April 1, 2011

April’s Blue Light Special

Filed under: Autism — Teacher Professor @ 9:12 am

Not KMart… Autism Awareness Monthhttp://www.lightitupblue.org/

We turn on our lights tonight.  I’m wearing blue.  Jess, from Diary of a Mom says , “While awareness is not the end-goal, it is the only means by which we will achieve it.”  You can read her impassioned letter to President Obama here.  Here are some really poignant excerpts:

On April 2nd of this year, the world will join together in observation of the Fourth Annual World Autism Awareness Day. As you know, this day exists because it has to. Because our children’s ranks are now growing in undeniably epidemic proportions. Because 1 in 110 children are now on the autism spectrum. 1 in 110. Please take a moment to let the enormity of that number sink in. The numbers aren’t getting any smaller. And someday mothers like me – mothers of 1 in every 110 children – will no longer be here to take care of our precious babies…

We need a lot more than blue bulbs. We need research and a renewed and reinvigorated commitment to real scientific inquiry and critical thinking. We need the money that you promised to fully fund IDEA. We need sweeping legislative change. We need a federal mandate on insurance reform. We need passage of the ABLE Accounts Act and a reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act. We need affordable and appropriate housing for our children as they transition into adulthood. We need the money that you promised to allocate to autism services, research and treatment. And far more.

In the 1970s, the Autism Society named April National Autism Awareness Month, and in 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared April 2nd  World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD).There are tremendous things going on. 

  • On our local area, A&P Equipment Services in Jacksonville is offering Blue Doughnuts and Coffee.
  • Waycross Middle School is asking everyone to dress in blue on April 9th
  • In farther afield activities, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center are going blue today
  • The Sydney Opera House is going blue
  • The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is running a series of “This is My Autism” stories every day this month.
  • ….
  • Heck, even the Lebanese Autism Society is hosting a conference this month.  In the middle of war and social upheaval in the region, they note the seriousness and the importance of autism to the future of their children. 

I keep thinking of Jess’s words:

While awareness is not the end-goal, it is the only means by which we will achieve it.” 

Please spread the awareness…

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