Build a brighter future with our music-based therapy
Offer proven neuroscience-based music listening therapy in your practice
Get started by discovering solutions and benefits for you
The Listening Program®
Improve your brain health and functioning
Connect brain and body using rhythm
The Movement Program
Maximize your learning ability
Your personalized brain fitness program
The world's most scientifically advanced sleep program
Solutions for active military, their families, and veterans
Books & Music
A wealth of resources for you
What you need to access our scientifically designed music
Are mothers of children with autism and other disabilities most likely depressed, stressed, and sleep-deprived? Might there be interventions that could help?
Most people asked those questions would answer with a resounding “Yes!” But anecdotal evidence is one thing. Medical research is quite another.
There are billions of words in the medical literature on autism and other disorders that affect an increasing number of young people. However, many fewer words — reflecting the dearth of research — have so far attempted to explain how these disabilities affect parents and what might be done to ameliorate the very real effects.
What are the effects?
Lead study author Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., has documented both the physical and affective results of parenting a child with a disability.
“Our research and findings from other labs indicate that many mothers of children with disabilities have a blunted cortisol response, indicative of chronic stress,” Dykens says. “Compared to mothers in control groups, this population mounts a poorer antibody response to influenza vaccinations, suggesting a reduced ability to fight both bacterial and viral infections.”
In fact, the mothers of such children show premature aging.
“They also have shorter telomeres, associated with an advanced cellular aging process, and have poorer sleep quality, which can have deleterious health effects,” notes Dykens. “All of this results in parents who are less available to manage their child’s special needs or challenging behaviors.”
Vanderbilt University’s research may help provide remedies.
In a first-of-its kind study, Vanderbilt researchers have documented that peer-led interventions aimed at improving parental well-being can drastically reduce stress, depression, and anxiety in mothers of children with disabilities.
The results of the study, recently published in the journal Pediatrics, prove that improvement can result from programs that help mothers de-stress, sleep better, and develop ways to “stand back” from the daily demands in order to maintain perspective.
According to an article on the study published by Vanderbilt, “The researchers examined two treatment programs in a large number of primary caregivers of a child with a disability. Participants in both groups experienced improvements in mental health, sleep, and overall life satisfaction and showed less dysfunctional parent-child interactions.”
In the study, about 250 mothers of children with autism or other disabilities were randomly assigned to one of two programs: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Positive Adult Development (PAD). The MBSR program is more physical, and emphasizes techniques including breathing exercises, deep belly breathing, meditation, and gentle movement. The PAD program takes a more cognitive approach and uses visualizing and other exercises such as practicing gratitude.
One unique aspect of the study was the peer leadership. The mothers were guided by mentors, who were all mothers of children with disabilities. The fully supervised peer Moms underwent four months of training on the intervention curriculum and the role of a mentor, as well a practicum on research ethics. Then, the peer mentors led six weeks of group treatments in 1.5-hour weekly sessions with the research mothers.
When the study began, baseline measurements indicated that 85 percent of participants had significantly elevated stress. In addition, 48 percent were diagnosed as clinically depressed. Fully 41 percent had anxiety disorders.
But help may be forthcoming. The study documented that both the MBSR and PAD treatments led to significant reductions in stress, depression, and anxiety and improved sleep and life satisfaction among participants.
Fortunately, mothers in both treatments also showed fewer dysfunctional parent-child interactions. Initial analysis indicates that the MBSR treatment effected the greatest improvements. But participants in both treatments continued to improve during follow-up, with sustained positive results for the following six month period.
Forthcoming research will examine how fathers fare in similar interventions. Dykens and her colleagues also plan to look at the differences in civilian versus military parents of children with developmental disabilities.
Tags Autism, parents, research, Vanderbilt
June 24, 2022 by Advanced Brain
For people experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it’s essential to support their coping skills while stimulating new neural connections to help them heal from trauma. The Listening Program…
June 10, 2022 by Advanced Brain
Memory loss and overall brain function are often associated with aging as though they are inevitable. People across the world see that it’s possible to age gracefully,…
May 23, 2022 by Advanced Brain
Music has a positive influence on mental health and can be essential to support overall health and well-being. The right music can increase feelings of happiness, improve…