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Autism care takes biological toll on mothers

Women who tend to teens, young adults with autism at home display unusually low levels of critical stress hormone

PARK CITY, Utah — Mothers with teenagers or young adults living at home face plenty of stress. If the young home-dwellers have been diagnosed with autism, the emotional intensity of caregiving surges dramatically in the mothers and may undermine the functioning of a critical stress hormone, a long-term study suggests.

Over a five-year span, women who had children with autism living at home reported many more challenges in their daily lives than women caring for typically developing teens and young adults, reported psychologist Marsha Seltzer of the University of Wisconsin–Madison on June 4 at the annual meeting of the Jean Piaget Society. Moms of children with autism spent nearly all of their time on caregiving activities, experienced an inordinate amount of daily fatigue, often got into arguments at home and at work, and reported having negative feelings far more often than positive ones.

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