Fathers of autistic children who read books and play an active role in taking care of their children not only promote the development of the child, but also support the mental health of the mother. New research proves this.
Mothers of children with autism reported fewer depressive symptoms in families where the father engaged in literacy and childcare activities, how to calm him down when upset or take him to the doctor. This is what emerged from a study conducted by the University of Illinois.
The lead author, Daniel J. Laxman, analyzed 3.550 children, including 50 children with autism spectrum disorders and 650 children with other disabilities.
The research also assessed the well-being of mothers and the involvement of fathers in managing their children (reading them books, playing games, bathing them...).
Greater involvement of fathers in the care of children with autism is particularly important, as mothers of these babies experience higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety than other mothers.
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"A father who reads a book to the child, or runs up when he cries, gives the mother a respite, allowing her to engage in other activities and take care of herself. This improves your mood and reduces anxiety and stress.
In addition, one of the main problems of autism is communication difficulties, and this is one of the main reasons for mothers' stress and depression. It can be really frustrating for a parent and upsetting for a child when you can't communicate.
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Dads by telling stories, reading books and singing songs teach new words and improve the communication of their children. And so they relieve the mother of this worry, "Laxman says.
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"In families with autistic children, the stressors are enormous and mothers need all the support they can get to be able to continue to function effectively. What we ask of men is to be more involved. In fact, previous research has shown that in most families with autistic children, fathers care much less than mothers. Instead, it is essential that men understand the reasons why their support is important and active engagement as a parent is so critical for both the mother and the child, "says Brent A. McBride, co-author of the study.
The University of Illinois study only looked at families in which both biological parents live together with the child, in order to analyze how much the father's behavior can influence the mother's depressive symptoms.
However, previous research has shown that the conflict between mothers and fathers increases as men become more involved in the care of the child. So it is important for parents to agree on the type of discipline to give and how to manage the daily activities of the child, how to dress him, what to feed him...
Also read: 10 things a child with autism would like you to know
"It is very important, if we want fathers to do more, that they compare themselves with mothers if there are different educational methods. This is not necessarily bad, in fact it can be good for children to receive different points of view. ANDHowever, it is important that parents try to agree as much as possible, and when they are not they must try to find a compromise, in order to interact with their children in a coherent way"concludes Laxman.