But Optimism Makes An Enormous Difference!
The years between childhood and adulthood are arguably the most turbulent years of a person’s life. No wonder parents find parenting teenagers difficult. What’s more is if you put in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual disability (ID) in the mix, you get a different set of challenges not many families face.
“I don’t go out much with my girlfriends anymore,” admits a mom of three, one of who is a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome. “Because when I do, and we start talking about our kids, I can’t help but think how normal their problems are and question what I ever did to deserve the hardships I have now.”
As it turns out, this mom is not alone.
Science Backs This Up
A recently published study revealed that mothers of teens with ASD and ID reported feeling higher levels of stress compared to moms of typical teenagers. Due to this, they were more predisposed to exhibit negative psychological manifestations such as anxiety and depression, researchers said.
What’s more, these same stress levels climb up when the teens with ASD/ID were observed to display “disruptive behavior disorder.”
“The most common disruptive behavior disorder is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, but children with autism can also show signs of oppositional defiant disorder, depression, and anxiety,” professor and autism expert Jan Blacher explained. Blacher authored the study along with a UCLA associate, Bruce L. Baker.
She went on to say that the disruptive behaviors most upsetting to parents of teens with ASD/ID are those that are described in layman’s term as “acting out.” Not following the rules their parents impose on them, breaking whatever they could lay their hands on, screaming, arguing and hitting others or themselves.
Mothers Not At Fault
Understanding autism has come a long way since the 1950s. It was in 1943 when psychiatrist Leo Kanner first proposed his “refrigerator mother” theory as the cause of autism. Kanner argued that the condition was the result of a mother’s lack of warmth and emotional attachment to her child.
This line of thinking about the disorder didn’t change until the mid-1960s when psychologist Bernard Rimland demolished it with scientific evidence showing autism stemming out from neurological development and genetics.
Rimland’s findings were the start of a slew of other studies over the decades in search of the elusive autism-linked genes. However, Blacher admitted that while these studies did a significant change in how the disorder is viewed today, they’re yet to benefit the families who have members with ASD.
“It’s the mothers who are impacted the most when one of her family members is diagnosed with ASD,” Blacher stated.
Optimism Changes The Game
Nevertheless, both Blacher and Baker insisted that parents don’t have to resign themselves to living with difficulty once they find out someone in the family is autistic or is intellectually disabled.
With the use of the Life Orientation Test, the duo assessed the optimism and pessimism of the parents involved in their study and found out that the mothers who had a more optimistic outlook in life felt the negative impacts connected with rearing a teenager with ASD/ID less compared to their counterparts.
“It’s in the face of stress when optimism becomes important,” the professor related.
This just proves how a favorable view of life makes it easier to override life’s highest and most violent waves.