Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'll save you money: Snark Study Review

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I'm going to tell you now that I don't need the $34.95 complete version of this study to tell you what the conclusion is going to be and neither do you. Good news, everybody! We just saved almost $40 by switching to common sense. You can thank me later.

I hope you can guess (or assume) the conclusion of this study, too:

Original Paper

Adaptation to Daily Stress Among Mothers of Children With an Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Role of Daily Positive Affect 

(This is me speaking, not the paper) My neighbor always says that mothers of autistic kids are the most easy going, flexible, patient and calm women she ever encounters as a social worker. She even tells me I have the patience of a saint. Lord knows I try...hmm... who is the Patron Saint of Patience? I need more muscle. See, this paper makes me turn to religion from science! 

Mom's of autistic parents are usually chipper and pro-active (not the acne stuff, but the when it comes to my kid I'll call you before you have to call me stuff). Working with moms of autistic kids is easy-peasy because they listen, they give accurate insight, they weigh options and they act. How come we need a study to say a sunny disposition and ability to deal with daily stressors leads to better outcomes for autistic kids? Doesn't it hold true for all kids? (Back to the paper)



Raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder is a challenging experience (Really?) that can impact maternal well-being (Whodda Thunk it?). Using a daily diary methodology, this study investigates (1) the relationship between stress and negative affect, and (2) the role of daily positive affect as a protective factor in the stress and negative affect relationship. Results from hierarchical linear models revealed that higher levels of stress were associated with decreased negative affect, both within and across days. Daily positive affect buffered the immediate and longer-lasting negative impact of stress on days of low to moderate levels of stress. Implications of the present study are discussed with regard to theoretical models of positive affect, the development of intervention programs, and directions for future research. 

If you don't know what "affect" means in this context is click here. 
I'm gonna borrow from my neighbor here (Thank you, Mrs. Alex, for inspiring me to have more testicular fortitude): No freaking way. You mean tell me, great science people, that mothers who can cope with daily stress AND keep a smile on their face have special needs children who flourish? 
N-freaking-O. W-A-Y.... N-O-freaking-WAY. Really?


Taking my logic one step further (because it's my birthday and I'm too old not to use logic now-- I actually FEEL smarter each hour past midnight) we can assume that mothers who are stressed the hell out and can't see the humor in their kid telling them to piss off-- in their own autistic, special way-- have kids who don't do so hot. Of course, I'm making sweeping assumptions here. I only read the paragraph above and tid bit from TPGA on facebook (and I quote):
"...and this is why we do our best to promote positive role modeling and attitudes. -SR"

Naturally, this paper comes out of a society who vilifies people who take a vacation during stressful times (or at all) and women are doing more today in their roles than they did fifty years ago as mothers. Or at least, it seems like it since there are, er were (economy fail) more two-working  parent households. Remember when the middle class survived on one income? I've only read fifty-thousand articles in the past year on the subject of getting men to do fifty-percent of the house-hold chores in a hetero-partnership where both have full time jobs. You can't pick up a damn magazine without reading about it. So. uh. C'mon now!

What these wonderful scientist people ought to be studying is how to get women in better moods. Really. How about how to make respite, support and stipends more readily available to moms...for, um, I don't know... relaxation time so she isn't wound up as tight as...spring? What do we wind up these days? How about taking some stress off of mom? How about making things like education easier so mom doesn't have to spend her precious energy advocating the for the same basic educational plans year after year after year? How about just making that money for education available cause the doctor and mom said it was necessary? How about doing something revolutionary like working with the mom, instead of against? 

Did we ever stop to think about why on earth a mom wouldn't have a positive outlook? Autism is hard. Being a mom to an autistic kid is hard. Lots of people think they are experts because they watched a ten minute special on the evening news or a talk show, but they don't really get it. Motherhood is hard with regular kids, but damn, autism? It's so hard that fifty years ago, parents would be told send them away forever... "have a do-over kid, folks, the state will care for your kid in this pretty institution you'll hear horror stories about fifty years from now."

How about we stop being all misogynistic about studies?  This abstract might as well read "Mother's who are frigid make their children autistic". It's the same package re-gifted in different words. "Mom's who aren't blowing sunshine out of their bums when everything is a battle outside (and may be inside) their four walls (if they have four walls) don't raise very well-adjusted kids, especially not autistic ones" would be a better title. 

Girls, get your aprons out and iron stuff! Make a casserole. Go bleed in the corner, you poor, fair, misguided sex.

You know what I'd love to see studied? The effect of of easily accessible efficient, proficient medical, educational and social services on maternal stress and autistic children...and junk. Why is it the mothers fault for not having a natural optimistic disposition? I invented something called "The Sunshine Stick" for blue friends, but even I've been a total buzz kill lately. I've been the Anthony Bourdain of motherhood. But damn, if you walked in my shoes, you might have jumped off a tall building already. 

Every single woman who participated in that study-- and you know they had better things to do-- have been degraded by the study's authors, in my humble, yet loud (and feminist) opinion. I have no doubt that the participants were candid about their experiences, like no other demographic would be. Moms of autistic kids have to deal in stone-cold truth everyday. The mothers affect is directly responsible for their child's success. Where's dad in this? Where's the modeling of relationships by parents? By family? By siblings? By the world? C'mon. Don't just blame mom-- that's so fifty years ago. Give her the tools and resources to be better, happier... positive! It's that simple....

But, wait, there's more:

Cause let me tell you-- it isn't my experience with autism or services or doctors or schools or reading these studies that keep me positive. No Sirree. It's my calm, blue ocean. It's a vacation. It's respite. It's a laugh. It's having the skills and support I need to laugh in the vicious, evil, nasty face of daily stress. (OMG, did I pay that bill?? I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer!! Gas is how much??!! Did I defrost some meat?? Do I have Flavor Blasted Goldfish to avoid a bed-time meltdown?!! How do adjust accordingly to this current crisis??!! This. Cannot. Be. Broken.) Sometimes, it's petting the cat. Other times it's talking to my spit-fire neighbor. It's watching stupid television or listening to classical music. It's scrapbooking. It's seeing my kid progress in area when I hadn't expected or had an indicator he would (despite all our effort and hard work). But it is not being left in the cold to take the blame handed out by silly science people. 

Maternal affect and stress is not helped by this study at all. As a matter of fact, this study may have raised my blood pressure and may make me lose sleep. We've lost our way. The success of kids isn't a maternal issue at all. It's a societal issue. Until regular mothers, nay WOMEN are properly supported, us special needs moms are gonna have be judged by our sunny smiles and charming ways. And the width of our Sunshine Sticks. 



Melisande said...

oh, yes, I say, Amen, Amen, Amen. Yes, let us blame mothers who aren't all sunshine and smiles everyday for hurting our children further! Sister, it ain't all sunshine and roses, and you know it too! Well, *hopefully* these researchers use this study to support families and mothers with resources that will HELP us cope ourselves and be happy so our kids can benefit!! DUH!!! I know a mom or two who will get what you say in spades!! Thanks for responding to this!

Carrie said...

Thanks for your comment, Melisande!!

I get tired of mom-blaming and women-bashing. What do we teach our kids about women? That women should be happy to be have women parts and motherhood is easy so shut up and be happy while baking cakes?

Being female by itself is HARD. We get battered by hormones at a young age and are told to absolutely be ashamed of it. Then we have our bodies under a publid microscope for our entire life. We are given all sorts of conflicting messages (don't be too aggressive, too smart or too pretty, but be all those things...get a boyfriend, don't get boyfriend, don't be a victim, but you probably deserved it because you are too [insert reason for blame], don't be loose, but don't be a prude...I could on and on). It's amazing we keep our sanity long enough to reproduce!

I have faith in science, but not THIS kind. This kind is down-right dangerous, not just for us, but for our children. Can you imagine a world where women are punished because they get stressed out or have a bad day? That's the road this science takes us down... and I thought our mothers and grandmothers fought against this sort of thinking and WON. Guess I was wrong.

Why support women? Because women make and raise people. Real. live. people... the people who will be caring for our generation... And that generation that cares for us in our old age will have a huge number of special needs ADULTS. So, um, yeah... makes sense that the mom is appropriately supported now.

Seems we special needs moms have to support ourselves and each other. That's okay by me because moms of special needs kids are the neatest women I know.