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Cognitive Aging in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

September 18, 2023 - August 18, 2025

Recent work suggests that mothers of children with disabilities are at increased risk for accelerated cognitive aging. Mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), in particular, may be especially susceptible to atypical aging given their elevated rates of key risk factors for dementia relative to mothers of typically developing children or children with other neurodevelopmental disorders. A significant number of mothers of children with ASD (up to 65%) continue to be caregivers for their adult children, resulting in increased stress, depression, loneliness, reduced social support, and poor sleep, all of which are risk factors for dementia-related disease. This NIH-funded study conducted by Dr. Laura Friedman at the University of South Carolina aims to address gaps in the literature on cognitive decline in mothers of children with ASD and associated risk factors.

What are the goals of the study?

Findings from this study will provide insight into atypical cognitive aging among mothers of children with ASD as well as potential risk factors. This will shed light on the need to monitor aging in this group, which may have broader consequences on their children who continue to live at home and depend on their parents as caregivers after high school.

What will happen during the visit or online?

You will complete 1 hour of surveys about various topics related to your life, including your memory and mental health. Then you will complete a 2 hour interview via Zoom with a trained examiner who will ask you questions about your experiences. You will also complete measures of thinking skills and attention.

How will this help families?

This study will contribute to our understanding of the potential link between autism and dementia-related disease, and is an important step in identifying the need for and advocating for family-centered supports through the lifespan.

Eligibility Criteria

Women who are between the ages of 55-75 and are biological mothers of a child/adult with autism

View the study flyer

Contact Information

Laura Friedman at scfamilystudy@gmail.com

Research Study Website
SC Family Experiences Study

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