Why Moms of Special Needs Kids May Have a Worse Memory

This headline was a bummer: "Memory may suffer in mothers caring for children with disabilities." But really, it wasn't an issue because within five minutes, I'd forgotten I'd even read it!

I joke, I joke, yet really, the news is no surprise to those of us raising kids with special needs. Mothers of kids with disabilities may be more forgetful as they age than other mothers, per a new study from the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The study tested 128 parents of kids with disability and 512 who didn't have disabled kids, assessing verbal memory, mental processing speed, reasoning, and working memory.

What's to blame for the memory deficit? Researchers point, in part, to the effect of long-term stress. "Because mothers of children with disabilities are usually more involved in childcare and housework than their spouses," notes study lead author Jieun Song, Ph.D., "it is likely these mothers are more exposed to chronic stress and consequently at higher risks of cognitive decline compared with fathers of children with disabilities over the life course."

This is yet another sobering reminder that as moms of kids with disabilities, we need to remember to take care of ourselves. Song notes that quality friendships and physical activity can help protect against brain burnout. I know that for me, the occasional Girls Night Out is downright therapeutic. I've also found it helpful to make plans with friends to go to plays and other events requiring tickets; once you pay for them, it's that much harder to bow out of the commitment. The same goes for pre-purchasing Zumba classes at the gym.

Blogging has also proven cathartic. In fact, one recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that mothers of children with autism who wrote in an online journal showed a decrease in stress. Really, whatever works for you works. And if your significant other gives you any flack about heading out with friends, just tell him it's good for your brain.

Ellen Seidman is a mom of two, editor, and professional snacker who blogs daily at Love That Max. You can find her pondering special needs parenthood and other important topics (such as what her next snack will be) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ even though she still hasn't totally figured out what that is.

Image of forgetful woman via Shutterstock

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