Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Autism Answer: I Don't Know Why, but I Trust You Do

I have no idea why your child is screaming and kicking you, but I trust you do

I have no idea why you choose to ignore her while you shop happily, rather than scold and explain to her, but I trust you do.

Okay... perhaps I do know. Perhaps you'd rather show her love and happiness while not giving attention to her tantrum. Perhaps your happy demeanor is as much an act of strength and long term teaching as another parent's stopping the shopping to scold, explain, and leave.

I have no idea why you parent the way you do, or why your child behaves the way she does, but I love children and I love you. And I trust you do, too.

There is so much thinking and guessing and trying involved when we parent. I choose not to make it harder for everyone by judging others when they do it their way.

Besides, thinking without judgement about why your child is screaming while you happily shop is far more nourishing for me than the chocolate covered almonds I bought while I was behind you at the checkout!!

I applaud diversity in my grocery store!!!

I applaud you for parenting for your child and not for me!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Autism Answer: The Creativity Spectrum

"To be a screenwriter is to deal with an ongoing tug of war between breathtaking megalomania and insecurity so deep it takes years of therapy just to be able to say 'I'm a writer' out loud." ~Blake Snyder  (from his book, Save The Cat!)

I love this. It's so bloody spot on!

I believe this is true for most folks in the creative world. It's a spectrum, you see, and we live all over it from one day to the next, one moment to the next.

In truth, this is what it is to be human. It's just heightened for those who live often in the creative world. Writers, actors, painters, most entrepreneurs... and so many more. 

We need to learn to take advantage of these extremes rather than succumb to the overwhelming challenge of adjusting constantly to our moods. This spectrum offers so much insight and endless opportunities to see things on the edges. If we are accepted and strong, if we surround ourselves only with people who will offer the same, then it's a beautiful gift.

Being creative invites many moods.
Many moods is fantastical and alive.
And being alive is a spectrum.

We all live on a spectrum! 
I think it's useful to remember that.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

I'm a Writer.
That's my disability.

It's a spectrum, so some days I'm more high functioning than others.
My kids really don't like my low functioning days, but in a way
they're my favorite. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Autism Answer: Step Up To The Challenge!

Okay, who likes a challenge?

The Flash Fiction Challenge on Chuck Wendig's blog yesterday was: Write a story in three sentences

Whaaaaatttt????? But I love lots and lots and lots of sentences!!!!! Haven't you seen my Facebook posts??? 
Oh, ya. No, he hasn't. Plus, it's supposed to be a challenge, so I guess if he had seen my page he'd certainly not choose to change it. Though, he'd likely rub his hands together while whispering with childish pleasure,"Excellent....."

Anyhooo, I went ahead and stepped up. Took on his challenging challenge. And--though it's not the greatest short story ever--it was fun! And peeking at most of the others, I've discovered that actually, you can write a story with three sentences! And it can be good!!

I'll share mine with you here, and I encourage you to check out his blog to read some of the others, and possibly step up to the challenge yourself! Not only will you get a kick out of it, you'll also be eligible to win a copy of his e-book, 30 Days in the Word Mines.

My Three Sentence Story
It’s not true that being autistic means I don’t want friends. I have ideas and thoughts that tumble around in my brain and when I catch them I want desperately to share them with someone; a friend would be nice. But my ideas won’t come out of my brain, and they never fit in with the people around me–though they would give them something to consider–and so with years and years of practice I learned to be my own friend, which is more than you can honestly say.

So, that's my three sentence story. And you know what? I kinda like it!!

As a matter of fact, I started liking it enough to call my brother, Dar, to see what he thought. You see, of everyone I know, he's the most like the character I imagined when writing my three sentence story, and I wanted to know what his opinion was. 

Besides, I miss him! 

So I called my son, Jory, who's staying with Dar while my mom travels for work. Asking him to hand the phone over to his uncle, I said a quick hi to my bro. "Hey Dar! How are you?"

"I miffff," he responded immediately. 

"I miss you too! Hey, I wrote a three sentence story today and I want to know what you think of it. Can I read it to you?"

"Yeff." His answer was quick, but then I waited while I heard my son reminding him to hold the phone on his ear. Once I felt his attention return, I began reading. 

After finishing, I asked with trepidation,"Sooooo.... do you like it?"

"Might." He answered.

"You might? You might like it?"

"Yeff. aaaaaa ummmm might."

I laughed and thanked him for listening. My son came back to the phone.

"I guess he might like it," my son was laughing. 

While saying goodbye to my boy and putting the phone in it's cradle, I was smiling to myself. 

Years ago I wouldn't have imagined that I could have a conversation with my brother on the phone. No way. Yet today I called him expecting to get an idea of his opinion. Wanting it and expecting it.

It seems that he was willing to step up to a challenge too! 

We all have challenges. Whether it's sharing our opinions, communicating in general, getting around town, accepting ourselves, or writing three sentence stories. And we all know that the best way to get beautiful things out of those challenges is to accept them and say "YES" to doing something proactive about them!  

So for those of you who are ready to accept a three sentence story challenge, go ahead and give it a try, HERE

As you can see, it's been an amazing and insightful gift for me. Getting to participate in a challenge, chat with my brother and learn that he's not as impressed with my story as I am. And then, share it all with you. 

And in only three sentences!!!
tee hee!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

My brother, Dar.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Autism Answer: Around Around We Go


ME: What's up Shay? You're looking very lost in thought lately.

SHAY: I keep thinking about how much fun it was to be a little kid, and how free I always felt and how my brothers were always near me. And then I wish we were little again. But then I think about how cool it's going to be to own a store and make movies and be a more on purpose part of the world, and I want that too. So then I wish I was grown up. But being a teenager just sucks, you know? Even though I keep trying to find something to like about who I am and what it's like now, I can't. I mean, I want to wish I was where I am. But it's hard.

ME: Some days are better than others though, right?

SHAY: Oh, ya! Lots of days are pretty good.

ME: Well, maybe think about how fun it is to still enjoy some of that freedom you felt as a kid while you on purpose get started on the stuff you're planning to do as a grown up. And then be glad that you are here, now.

SHAY: That might help sometimes, but not much.

ME: And remember that some days are better than others. And make it a habit to wake up believing that it's going to be a "better than others" day.

SHAY: You always say stuff like that mom. As if we can change the world with our attitude.

ME: Well, that's because I believe we can.


ME: Hurry up, Shay!!! Get up, get up, get up!! We've gotta be out of here in, like, ten minutes and you're still in bed.

SHAY: I'm thinking about how today is going to be one of my better days.

ME: Awesome!! Think about it while we get moving. Anyway, it's easier to imagine good stuff when you're moving and smiling and feeling pro-active. 

SHAY: Good point (grabs his glasses and sits up while singing to himself) I'll meet you in the car in a minute. I've just gotta brush my teeth.


Smiling and listening to the latest Framing Hanley CD--The Sum Of Who We Are-- I'm thinking about how we teach our kids, how they roll their eyes at us and consider our old-fogy ideas, then go ahead and make some of them their own. Meanwhile, the moment they do, we moms and dads add more lessons and old-fogy knowledge.

I turn up the music as Shay climbs in the car. In time for school and looking good.

Life is a lovely thing, and today is one of our better days!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

My Sister, Jady, and my brother, Dar: circa 1994
Around and Around they go!
This living life thing is pretty fun!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Autism Answer: Where We Started

I read a guest post by Sam Sykes, over on Chuck Wendig's blog, and it got me thinking. The post is largely about being embarrassed of our beginnings, being ashamed of where our passions and inspirations originated. 

In my parenting world, some of my inspiration came from Mary Poppins and the movie Annie. Yes, I believed that singing and spoonfuls of sugar and the sun coming out tomorrow was what it took to make a happy home.

I did learn, I'll admit, there is a bit more to it than that!!!! 

But, those beginnings did shape me. Those passions are part of my parenting style. And.... I'm proud of them!! After, of course, years of being embarrassed by them.

The guest post I read, though, was specific to reading and writing. And--again--my beginnings are something I've sometimes tried to hide.

The author who most inspired me was V.C. Andrews. (Ouch! Admitting that hurt!)

I read Flowers In The Attic at twelve years old and I was reborn. Parts of me felt feelings I didn’t know existed, and parts of me existed that I didn’t know could feel, and thoughts grew in my garden brain that felt as foreign as aliens or decaffeinated coffee.

Who was this author? What was this power that could make me new? Make me more concrete and more malleable, all at once??

I devoured her books for an entire year, wrote her letters and held back tears when she didn’t write back words of surprised admiration for my insightful observations and flowing sentences. Then held back more tears when she didn’t even write back at all.

Eventually I moved on, reading other more eclectic (and less obsessed with incest!) authors.

And I was writing. From the moment I read V.C. Andrews, I was writing. I had to.

So, yes, I’ve been known to throw away answers like “J.D. Salinger” and “John Steinbeck” or “Margaret Laurence” when asked about my beginning; my budding desires to write. Because, seriously…. V.C. Andrews???

Now when I write, I write what I love. I dive in and have so much mother loving fun that I can only imagine changing the world and waking up the feelings and parts of readers around the globe, to thundering appreciation and gifts of caffeinated shade grown organic fair trade coffee!!

My writing isn’t like V.C. Andrews, but the feelings I get and the love I have for the story and tangled emotions my characters fall into are like what she gave me as a twelve year old girl falling in love with the process.

What a foolish thing. To be embarrassed of that.

Don't you think, friends?

So don't be ashamed of your beginnings, in fact remember them proudly! Because it will help you encourage your own children and loved ones to discover passion where they need to. It will help you not judge or worry when you see your daughter moved to tears by an anime drawing you don't understand, or your son rummaging through the cupboards looking for toothpicks and duct tape to build a prop for a random funny video he's just got to put on YouTube.

Our passions grow brighter and more beautiful when given sunlight and room to blossom. As the years pass feel free to toss fertilizer and nutrition at your loved ones, but avoid judgements regarding the items they choose to grow.

Where you started was no more important or better. And where you started gave you exactly what you needed for where you are.

Be proud and excited about that!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Autism Answer: Trigger Control

I read a fantastic blog post by Caitlin Kelly. In Everything's a Trigger on her Broadside Blog, she mentions "re-branding" our triggers. More specifically, she shares a romantic story of being proposed to by her current husband at a place and time to specifically re-brand her trigger. It's sweet, and it worked!

She encouraged us, her fans and followers, to share our own experiences with triggers and I excitedly shared one of my own successful trigger "re-brands". My comment:

"The movie Little Shop of Horrors with Rick Moranis was a trigger for me. When I was twelve my step-dad had been molesting me. That was hard. However, the soul shattering fear I felt in the exact moment that I told my mom, said the words out loud, was harder. And that movie (a family favorite, at the time) was playing in the adjoining room when I told. The moments following the telling were challenging, and putting the pieces back together proved to be a lot of worthwhile work, but nothing compares to the feeling in the moment I admitted that what was happening was real, and was everyone’s problem. 
But I’ve re-branded the movie by renting it, watching it often, and singing the songs with my sons. The re-branding worked beautifully because being with my boys always makes me feel strong and put together, and watching them point out different favorite parts than the ones my sister and I had adored, encouraged me to see the movie with entirely new eyes!
You have a lovely husband, Caitlin. How wonderful of him to help you re-brand a trigger so romantically!! Hugs!!!" ~~~
Yes, even when I'm hanging out on the web with other friends I use too many exclamation points. They're such fun!!!

Anyway, it got me reflecting. 

In the world of autism we are surrounded and abused by triggers! Sensory issues, communication challenges and so much more make many of us almost like a walking/running/rolling upcoming disaster. The most common and expected things out in the world beyond our personally renovated and decorated homes can trigger us, or our loved ones, to meltdown or retreat or have anxiety attacks.

But we've also learned that we are responsible for controlling our own triggers. When my brother couldn't hold back from huffing and hitting at the site of knees and elbows, my mom didn't campaign for the world to stop having knees and elbows, or for them to always wear long sleeves and thick pants and NEVER bend in my brother's direction. Instead she was understanding and kind to my brother, while finding a way to help him take control and re-brand that trigger. It took years, but it was worth it.

I can't expect the world to know not to play a song or quote a line from Little Shop of Horrors when I'm around (in fact, today at our town's Parkfest I clapped my hands and cheered as a group of itty-bitty girls performed a dance to the opening number from that movie!) but I could ask my family and friends to understand when hearing it made me go pale and my lips become numb. I could explain and expect understanding when my voice grew small and my world became out of focus.

And I could take control of my trigger by finding a new way and new reason to watch the movie. And I did! And now I love it!!

Yet, in truth, I still fight the initial tummy tumble and shrinking of myself, but it's so short and almost unnoticeable that I can't honestly call it a trigger anymore. It's just something of a memory that I will likely always have. That's okay!

So go ahead and control your triggers! Show and teach your children that they can too! Don't expect it to be quick, and don't ever belittle the very real reaction they are having to the trigger, but encourage and believe they can re-brand!!

Happy Saturday friends!
And now, "It's super tiiii-iiime. Come on, come on..... " 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Autism Answer: A Little Movie I Wrote To Change The World

One of my sons, writing a song.

About ten years ago my four sons were sleeping and I sat up all night writing a movie. I wanted to make the world my boys were growing up in a better place, an intentional open minded and accepting place, and so I wrote Carhopping

I loved it! My family loved it!! I imagined scores of interviews where Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres asked how it was that I could do so much with one movie. They applauded my story telling and sang praise for the new world I had encouraged with my movie! 

Then, I saved Carhopping on a flash drive and went on with my life. 

It was never forgotten because we had all experienced it. I'd written it, my family had read it, and we all had conversations and thoughts because of it. As my hero character says: 

"Once I've imagined it, for me it's real; a memory." ~The Hitchhiker

One of my sons, researching for his screenplay.

But I didn't breathe any more life into it than that. I was content. For a time.... 

Now my sons are teens and young adults, and they are pursuing dreams married with careers. So, to be an example of taking action (and, honestly, because I want to navigate the same worlds my sons do and I'd like to make as many of the mistakes for them as I can, in turn offering them advice and connections so their roads will be slightly less bumpy!) I dusted off my movie and queried producers. A few of them requested the script, and one of them (the brilliant and beautiful Alexia, of Little Studio Films) appreciated my concept so much that she offered to help me make it--well--a real script! You see, I had no idea what I was doing and so my "feature film" was 67 pages of flowery words and intriguing characters who had hardly any connection to each other. Somehow she saw through the blinding "green" of my screenwriting into the depths of my story. 

Thanks to her encouragement I've grown with my characters and deepened our stories. It's not quite there yet, I can feel an "aha" moment watching me from the peripheries, but the script is good. Soon, it'll be great!

One of my sons, writing a video game story line. 

I've learned to value connections, feedback, and friendships with volume! Though, I'll admit, I'm still shy about offering my own feedback (my sons can attest to this truth, I love sharing my thoughts and ideas but struggle to form opinions about what others might do different) however I'm more than happy to give it a try!!

I've discovered that the movie I wrote did change my world, and so it's been exactly the gift I hoped it would be, though I didn't know back then how to imagine a different world and so I gave the power to Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres. This, though, this world of editing, connecting, rethinking, reworking, formatting, and enriching my own understanding has made the world my boys are growing up in a better place. So I've already reached my dreams. 

Now, I get to live them loud!! 

One of my sons, assisting on a production and learning the art of directing. 

Friends, don't forget to take action and trust that you can reach your dreams. Know that, yes, it will likely look different when you get there, but the different (as long as you're willing to see it) will be far more enriching and real. Far more uniquely you!!!!

Of course, it would still be kick-ass awesome to be interviewed by Jon Stewart!! Giggle!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)