Improve the Well-Being of Mothers of Children with Autism with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder . . . who engage in a mindfulness-based practice see a decrease in their child’s aggression and challenging behaviors and an improvement in the child’s overall functioning.” – Katy Oberle
There is a tremendous demand for caregiving in the US. It is estimated that over 65 million (29% of the adult population) provides care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged, averaging 20 hours per week spent caring for their loved ones. This caregiving comes at a cost exacting a tremendous toll on caregivers’ health and well-being. Caregiving has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety as well as higher use of psychoactive medications, poorer self-reported physical health, compromised immune function, and increased mortality.
Providing care for a child with autism can be particularly challenging. About one out of every 68 children is considered autistic. These children’s behavior is characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. These make it difficult to relate to the child and receive the kind of positive feelings that often help to support caregiving. The challenges of caring for a child with autism require that the parent be able to deal with stress, to regulate their own emotions, and to be sensitive and attentive to their child. These skills are exactly those that are developed in mindfulness training. It improves the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It improves emotion regulation. And it improves the ability to maintain attention and focus in the face of high levels of distraction.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based psychotherapy technique that employs many of the techniques of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). ACT focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. It then works to change thinking to alter the interaction and produce greater life satisfaction. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. ACT teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes. The application of mindfulness skills to the parents of children with autism is relatively new. So, it would seem reasonable to investigate the ability of ACT to improve the psychological well-being of mothers of children with autism.
In today’s Research News article “The Effectiveness of Group Based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) on Emotion Cognitive Regulation Strategies in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6861729/?report=classic), Salimi and colleagues recruited mothers of children with autism and randomly assigned them to receive either a once a week for 2 hours for 8 weeks program of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) or a health education control condition. They were measured before and after training for emotion regulation including self-blaming, blaming others and positive reevaluation, blaming, rumination, considering a situation as disastrous, reception, planning/positive refocuses.
They found that after treatment the mothers showed a significant increase in reception, planning/positive refocuses and significant decreases in self-blaming, blaming others and positive reevaluation, blaming, and considering a situation as disastrous. Hence, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) significantly improved the ability of mothers of children with autism to regulate their emotions. This is very important as these mothers are extremely important for these children but under great stress and emotional turmoil. Being able to improve their psychological well-being is important for both the mother and child.
So, improve the well-being of mothers of children with autism with mindfulness.
“People who practice mindfulness learn to pay specific attention to what is happening in the moment — and that includes moments that are stressful or chaotic. It is easy to get overtaken by stress or negativity, but mindfulness teaches people to find distance from their negative thoughts by learning to acknowledge them and label them when they happen.” – Julianne Garey
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Salimi, M., Mahdavi, A., Yeghaneh, S. S., Abedin, M., & Hajhosseini, M. (2019). The Effectiveness of Group Based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) on Emotion Cognitive Regulation Strategies in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum. Maedica, 14(3), 240–246. doi:10.26574/maedica.2019.14.3.240
Background:Autism spectrum disorder has a big impact on family life. Mothers of children with autism face many challenges. This study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of group-based acceptance and commitment therapy on cognitive emotion regulation strategies in mothers of children with autism.
Method:This is a quasi-experimental study with a pretest-posttest control group design. The research population included mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder referring to exceptional schools, who were living in Tehran. After cluster random sampling, 30 mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder were selected and randomly assigned to two groups: an experimental group and a control group, each consisting of 15 women. Participants responded to the cognitive emotion regulation questionnaire vulbefore and after intervention. The experimental group received group-based acceptance and commitment therapy (eight two-hour sessions), while no intervention was given to the control group.
Results and conclusion:Covariance analysis of data showed that group-based acceptance and commitment therapy had a significant effect on positive/planning strategy refocusing (p=0.003), positive reappraisal (p=0.004), self-blaming (p=0.001), blaming others (p=0.007), considering a situation as disastrous (p=0.001), reception (p=0.008). However, there was not a significant difference in the dimensions of rumination (p=0.025). Therefore, it is recommended that welfare institutions and centers should provide a training plan based on acceptance and commitment therapy to improve the current cognitive emotion regulation strategies for mothers of children with autism spectrum.