Autism: As a Mama, am I Worried or Concerned?

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Autism: As a Mama, am I Worried or Concerned?
I read a thought this morning that gripped me: “Worry is not the same as legitimate concern. Concern can be productive if it is solution-focused and drives us to take corrective action on behalf of ourselves or someone else. But worry is concern that’s gotten out of control.” (Florence MacKenzie).
Well shoot, I thought afterwards, am I worrying about my son and his Autism, or am I concerned? I would like to think it is genuine concern, but let’s be honest, it borders, and even crosses over into worry quite often.
Controlling my Worry
Every parent has concern for their children; it is a part of parenthood and begins the day you find out you are pregnant. After they are born, you worry about the right daycare, food, diapers, car seats, education, etc. Your life becomes a worry-fest! Then you add Autism on top of that and it is like you cannot breathe at times because you feel suffocated with worry and fear for everything. Can he function in school on his own? Can he get off the bus at school and find his class? Will he be able to be independent as an adult? Did I somehow cause this during pregnancy?

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Here is the answer my friends: we do not know and thus we cannot control these things. Therefore, we need not worry. I know this is easier said than done, and I know I am preaching to myself at this very moment. I worry constantly about my son at school. There have been times when his teachers will say to me, Jen, we have it under control, do not worry about it. If we need you, we will call you. Talk about putting me in my place.
So where do I put my worry aside and simply have concern? Maybe I do not know. Maybe I do not have that simple answer. Perhaps there is not a simple answer beyond give it up in prayer. Seek others for help and understanding. Yes, I realize many other people do not know and understand what you are going through, but sometimes talking it out can simply help.
But let us go back to the quote above. Concern is solution-focused. Worry is concern that has spiraled its way out of control. Think of a concern you have. Do you feel in control of the problem? Meaning, is it keeping you awake at night? Is it causing you anxiety and high stress? If so, it does not sound like you have control over it and it is now a worry rather than a concern.

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My Concern about Autism
I am very concerned about my son’s Autism. It hinders him in many areas of his life. It hinders our family in many areas as well. We cannot go out to dinner on a whim when we want to. It must be preplanned and we must go out early before the crowds come out. Our lives revolve around Autism. So my husband and I are always thinking about his future and how it will look. We are always concerned when he leaves for school whether he will hurt another student or run away from his teachers. We are also concerned for our stress level in dealing with all of this. My doctor once made a comment that my blood pressure seemed to rise quite a bit after 2008. I simply laughed and said, well, that happens when you have a child; I bet it went up again when he started showing signs of Autism and it got bad (sure enough that was when my medication dosage had increased… coincidence?).

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But I have learned to not let it get into the worry mode. I admit, at times it does. I have a great support in place to help keep me in check when I get to this point. They remind me I do not have control over this and need to simply step back and calm down and give it to God. It is hard not having control over these issues. It is hard for me to let it go and stay calm. And it is a struggle for me to not cross over that line into worry all the time. It takes practice and patience. It takes understanding and support.
But I have also found that my worry transfers onto my son. He picks up on it and it makes him more irritable and difficult. Whereas my concern I can keep hidden more and it does not cause the immediate stress. When I worry I lose focus of the big picture- my son! All I focus on is the problem itself, the Autism. It consumes me and stresses me. But my concern allows me to stay focused and come up with solutions. It helps me to understand the situation at hand and whether or not this is something worth battling now or waiting until later.
There is a Difference
Yes my friends, there is a difference between concern and worry. Are you concerned for your child, or are you worried? Are you stressed and is it controlling your life? Or are you being solution-focused and have a game plan? Is your heart focused on the right things or focused on only the worries in life?
Seek help in all areas. Find friends, family, professionals, therapists, etc. to help you. Pray and seek for understanding. Work on putting these worries aside and asking for guidance to get you through the struggles.
You will find yourself growing in strength and maturity with this. Keep staying strong and remember God gives us the tools and resources we need to handle any situation He gives us; we need to use what we have been given. If He has given you this situation, He will qualify you for it, so allow Him to. Grow in your understanding and become the best parent you can be.

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Jen Edwards
jen@voyagescounseling.com
720-258-6392