Friday, August 19, 2016

Autism Answer: The Cruelty In My Kindness (aka Never Give Up)



Not long enough ago I was like too many others. I assumed that people with severe cognitive challenges or neurodevelopmental disorders were to be taken care of as different and unable; the more challenged they were, the less like me I thought of them as. Sure, I knew they had thoughts and stuff, but I couldn't imagine that we ever had anything in common or that their ideas might be related to desires common with the majority of us. 

But because I was "nice" I wouldn't name call or bully or make fun of people with disorders, disabilities, and challenges.  Nope, not me! I would nervously take care of them and take them to the park. Easily slipping into conversations with the people I met there, explaining why this brother of mine or this person I was volunteering my time with was behaving the way they were. I'd go ahead and make up reasons because I didn't think there were any real understandable reasons. Together my new friend and I would smile condescendingly at the person I had been nice enough to bring to the park. 

Ouch!  
Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Friends, I was in the position to grow and share and teach the world so many times, but I was never up for the task. Though, if you asked me at the time I would have thought myself teaching kindness. 

And, you know, it's not like I didn't have anyone showing me otherwise. My mom has always, always, always exampled and taught and explained the error of my ways; the error of so many people's ways. Yet, because she was not the norm, because her belief in the abilities, feelings, and similarities that cognitively challenged adults and children have to everyone else in the world was rarely agreed to, I chose to nod at my mom with equal parts worry and condescension. 

Slowly, slowly, slowly I began to see the truth behind my mom's teachings and the cruelty of my supposed kindness. That doesn't feel good, you know? Revealing yourself to have been taking the easy road at the expense of others. Because for a lot of years that's what I was doing. People would applaud my patience and I wouldn't have to make them uncomfortable the way mom did, by insisting they treat all people as equals. 

Slowly, slowly, slowly is not great. But it's better than never. And I am different now, though not always comfortably so. The good news is that my new uncomfortable-ness comes from knowing that my challenged loved ones and friends are equal to me and are not "other" or even very different. If my brain was behaving similarly to theirs, I would likely make similar choices as them. So, I feel nervous because I want to be their friend but I don't have a great track record for understanding how. 

In time, I hope to get over this uncomfortable-ness that I am proud of. Because I plan to keep on practicing. 

Don't give up on anyone, friends! Your children, your spouse, your neighbor, yourself.

Slowly isn't always as wonderful as now, but it is wonderful.

And slowly can sometimes equally as wonderful, when it's consistent and coupled with the intention of gathering so much love and learning along the way. 

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


*If you're interested in learning more about my family, and their contributions to my journey of discovery and growing up, I invite you to get a copy of my book Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up (Available at Amazon, Archway Publishing, Barnes & Noble, BAM, Powell's, and more. Or check your local library! Request it, even!) 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Autism Answer: Fix It In Five At My Friend's House

Pre-Show Discovery: 
(Wednesday) 
FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD, Season Two, is FREE on The Autism Channel, available to anyone with a Roku box. Unfortunately, I don't have a Roku box. (Fortunately, I do own season one digitally so I still get to be a legit Fix it in Fiver!)

But guess what? I'm hanging out at my friend's house in Colorado for a week and she has a Roku box!!!

Not only am I going to watch season two (episodes one, two, and three), but I'm going to watch it with a friend!!! We're going to chat and consider and debate and take action and implement new techniques in our separate homes, together! 

Watching FIX IT IN FIVE is always fun, surprising, enlightening, and emotional. But I bet watching it with a friend, someone to share 'AHA' moments with, will be even more fun, surprising, enlightening, and emotional! 

Wooooo hooooo!!! 

If you've been watching season two already, don't give me any spoilers! And if you haven't, maybe check if your friend has a Roku box! It's a must see series!


Hugs, smiles, and love!!
_________________
Post-Show Discovery: 
(Friday)
My friend and her husband sat with me on their L-shaped couch as we prepared to figure out how to watch The Autism Channel on the Roku Box. Seventeen seconds later, we were on The Autism Channel! (It's really easy!)

Immediately we saw my mom among the new and popular shows. One click, and we were watching Fix it in Five with Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad. Her energy (and my brother's energy - he has a cameo!) filled the Colorado living room. It was fantastic!

Soon, through the magic of television, Roku boxes, and intimate direction/editing, we were transported to a living room in California, sipping coffee and learning behavior techniques with a family who was struggling with disappointment because dad had made an excuse not to show up. 

Bam, we were feeling and thinking and understanding and caring. 

And learning. 

We watched the rest of the episode in fits and starts; pausing to discuss thoughts and ideas and aha moments. We felt ourselves fall easily in love with the family on the screen and comfortably trust my mom (aka The Brain Broad) to guide us in our discoveries. 

It. Was. Awesome. 

Yet, there's more!

As soon as we finished watching the show, my friend's family showed up. Her mom, sisters, nieces and nephew. We played and laughed in a new way; the visit had been tinted with a fresh energy and desire to connect deeply through play and openness. It was thrilling! The adults sang songs together, we got down on the floor with the kids and explored our authentic interest in them, and we watched some funny videos on YouTube. It was almost the same as every other time I've hung out with my friend's family, but the new ideas presented in FIX IT IN FIVE were showing themselves in the ways me, my friend, and her husband played. Soon they showed themselves in the entire family with the way they responded to our playfulness. 

Yet, there's more!

That night my friend and I sat up chatting until 4AM. We agreed, explored, disagreed, debated, and supported each other. We didn't talk about my mom's show, but the show was there; part of us. 

One concept - the one about how we often instigate violence - was important for us that night. We shifted it and renovated it for our purposes, and we felt on the precipice of a necessary understanding. My friend's oldest son is going through something right now and we knew the answer to how she could help him lay in there somewhere. However, in our fatigue we merely tap danced around it, creating a momentum with our movements that tickled and fluttered the answer we were looking for, never quite giving it the gust of wind it needed to fly straight into our line of understanding. And we were deliriously and deliciously tired, so we did need it to announce itself on a gust of wind! Seeing it from our sleepy peripheries was not an option.



But the next morning my friend spent a little more time than usual in her bedroom. When she finally joined me on her couch (where I was sleeping for the week) it was with an energy of forward motion and happiness. After our evening of tap dancing (go ahead and imagine a couple of middle aged ladies with zero tap dancing experience tap dance. Funny, right? We totally should have done that! Alas, we were merely tap dancing around a learning. But that's fun, too!) some sleep and dreams had given her the gust of understanding she needed. After spending time texting with her son, forward motion (for her and him) and goals and self-confidence and appreciation came flooding to the surface. They had figured stuff out!

We watched one episode of FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD on The Autism Channel together. One. And it did so much for us! Because the show is what it is and because we are who we are

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
________________
It's A Wrap:
(Thursday)
Obviously I want to sing it out to the whole world: Watch FIX IT IN FIVE! It's the answer to everything for everyone, plus it's fun! But I know better. I know that the true lesson has to do with choosing what we watch with purpose, being willing to shift and learn with an open mind, and sitting up all night with a good friend sipping coffee. (That last one might be for me. tee hee!) 

But it's also true that some shows, some books, some places, some individuals, have a way with sharing important information and ideas that resonates and helps a majority of people. And that, my friends, is what I promise FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD, is. That's what it can and does do. 

I encourage you to watch it; alone, with friends, with family, and at school! 

Maybe even sit up all night sipping coffee and tap dancing with friends to solidify your learnings! Giggle!

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


Enjoy this short trailer for season two of FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Autism Answer: We Create (Story & Video)

A little girl,
She imagines herself in nature. 
Living in her, singing with her, 
in tune with her. 

Sometimes, 
she imagines she can turn herself into a cat
and play in the trees she loves so much. 

As she imagines, she becomes. 
More in love with nature,
adopting a curiously catlike style.

Storytellers are powerful
and we are all storytellers.
We imagine, we tell, we choose;
we create. 

A young lady,
she hangs out with comedians in comedy clubs.
She's fascinated by the men and women her mom dates,
and their easy acceptance of her family.

Often, 
she dates men whose diversity goes unnoticed by her
but is pointed out to her by her friends. 

As she hangs out, she chooses.
Who she wants to be in relationships,
what jokes she believes in laughing at.
 
Storytellers are powerful
and we are all storytellers. 
We imagine, we tell, we choose;
we create.

A woman,
she writes stories made up from the ideas and personalities in her mind. 
Sometimes telling stories about her gay son, her brown sons, her black husband, her autistic brothers. 

Always,
when she writes stories she explores difference 
from sameness.

As she writes, she creates. 
Her world of ideas and memories, 
stories to be re-imagined by an audience of strangers.  

Storytellers are powerful
and we are all storytellers. 
We imagine, we tell, we choose;
we create.

We experience our world in the way we tell it.
We create our experiences in the way we narrate them to ourselves and others. 
Our choices tell a story. 

Storytellers are powerful
and we are all storytellers.
We imagine, we tell, we choose;
we create.

                         We create. 

     ________________________________________________

 
I ventured to my favorite spot in the woods behind our house and made this video of me reciting We Create. Watching the video is kind of like joining me hidden here in the trees, but with a bonus! You don't have to be eaten alive by mosquitoes! tee hee!

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






Sunday, July 24, 2016

Autism Answer: Some Examples Of Changing My Mind

My life, my heart, my home, my mind, my possibilities, and my senses are all grateful for diversity. I seek it purposefully with an open mind and curious interest. 

I get giddy when I discover a culture or group that I don't know well and they are willing to share with me. I always gain new perspectives that enhance my life! Sure, I also always learn that I've been making mistakes and assumptions that were wrong and even, sadly, sometimes cruel. But how wonderful to learn and be willing to change! If I don't know, how can I shift?

An Example: Before I dated my husband I usually feared and assumed that mechanics were taking advantage of me and that they were responsible for breaking things after they had fixed other things on my car. After watching my mechanic husband work, sometimes with me helping him (and his mechanic friends), I learned that they work so freaking hard and hardly make money and rarely are to blame for the thing that breaks after you drive away. Most of the time the part was at risk of breaking and the new part fixed by the mechanic puts a new pressure on the old part only because of it's powerful newness. Or you are now noticing the new problem because the mechanic fixed the old problem. Or, or, or.... The point is most mechanics aren't taking advantage. The job is harder and more expensive than we non-mechanics understand. 

Another Example: Until my son pointed it out, I had often easily laughed at jokes that seemed harmless to me. Then one day we were watching an old episode of Friends, or maybe it was That 70s Show, and the classic "someone thinks he's gay but he's not gay" premise was played out. My son said, "I sure do notice that there are a lot of homophobic jokes on TV." I started to tell him why it wasn't homophobic when I realized that the entire joke was only funny if the audience agreed that no one wants to be mistaken for gay. Oops! I immediately started taking a closer look at common humor and was made aware. It was an especially eye opening experience for me because I was already vocal about the importance of being clever and careful with humor. However, my focus had remained on more obviously cruel jokes. The ones where we are making fun of people or cultures, or where we name-call and are intentionally cruel. But when I started paying closer attention to the underlying themes and audience agreement that had to be accepted to find jokes funny, well, I changed. I saw it in more places than homosexuality, of course. But it wasn't until my son, who is gay, pointed out a problem that directly affects him that I opened up to looking closer. I'm certain that the issue had been brought to my attention before that, I just never felt as directly motivated to really think about it.

I Have Too Many Examples: As I was typing those two examples above a million more came to mind. How I used to think black people were exaggerating about discrimination, and now I don't. How I used to believe that my autistic brothers were too different for me to understand, and now I don't. How I used to assume my uniquely wired mom didn't try hard enough to fit in and just wanted to get attention, and now I don't. How I used to believe that people who aren't poor were somehow simultaneously more successful than me and sellouts who had come un-tethered from anything meaningful in their pursuit of profit, and now I don't. Oh, boy, I could go on and on!! The point is, getting to really truly know and care about people who are vastly different from me is why I know when my assumptions are mistaken. And, it turns out, my assumptions are often mistaken! 

In my desire to have strong ethics and stand by my beliefs, I have learned that I can (and do) get in my own way. Yet, when I remember that my strong ethics and beliefs are tied tightly to my desire for a world of peace, love, coffee, books, and snuggles, I know that standing firm works well with flexibility. I stand firm in my belief that we can accept all living beings and that we are all equally valuable and that our planet is one great big beautiful living friend, and then I am flexible in my journey to play a part in the beauty of that belief. 
 

Diversity of culture, work, neurology, religion, sexuality, class: Seek it purposefully with an open mind and desire to follow differences down deep, where they lead to sameness.

It's one of the greatest ways to learn and love everyone. 

It's a wonderful way to celebrate ourselves and our world!

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

My hubby really gets into his work! Ha! See what I did there? I'm here all week. tee hee!
 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Autism Answer: Put Yourself On Hold And Listen

Thinking about how the character feels.


When I read a novel I don't question the character's feelings. I don't read the description and think "that's not right at all, you didn't feel that way, you're just trying to get attention" or any such thing.

Instead, I put how I imagine I would feel on hold while I wear the feelings of the character. When the novel is well written I almost always think things like "that's not how I would have felt, how interesting and eye opening, I never thought of it that way" and I put the book down for a moment to marinate in the new feelings and conclusions of things. 

Why, then, did I have to teach myself to do this also when real life people tell me how they feel in certain situations? Why did I want to tell my autistic brothers that they are WRONG about their feelings, and that I was the expert? 

They would tell me with words or actions that certain things hurt (u-turns in the car, for example) and that other things felt good (certain songs played over and over and over, for example) and I would tell them with my words or actions that they were wrong and they had to get over it. 

Sure, I thought I was "teaching" but I didn't first take the time to believe them about their feelings. I couldn't imagine a u-turn hurting, and I knew that we didn't mean to hurt him with a u-turn, and so I didn't take the time to put myself on hold and imagine being him. And when a brother needed to hear the same song over and over and over, crying and begging with looks of desperation while dragging me to the music player for the song again and again, I assumed he needed to "get over it" and thought I was teaching when I didn't press play. Oh, I knew that certain songs could make us feel good, but I also knew that I could easily handle it if others didn't want to hear the song that made me feel good, so I thought my brother needed to learn that too. I didn't take the time to imagine myself as someone different than me, as someone challenged like my brother. 

Yet it was always so easy for me when I read novels. In fact, the reason I have always loved to read novels is exactly for that. That feeling I get when characters come to different conclusions than I would or have different feelings about things than I would or are treated differently than I am and they open my eyes to infinite and new possibilities!

I also love novels for those moments when the character feels exactly how I've felt. When the story takes place in a world of events and people I've never experienced or known yet the author reminds me that we are all in emotional need of the same things. I love that! I think things like "oh, that's exactly how I've felt, I could never find the perfect way to describe it, I'm highlighting that" and I'm newly invested in the character who is also mostly different from me. 

I don't know why it took me long, but my life is better because I've learned to do that with the real life people in my world, too.

I'm so grateful to my brothers for forgiving my mistakes. And I'm even more grateful that they continue to share with me their feelings and let me imagine myself as them. 

Now when we teach each other (because we do want to learn how to feel comfortable with u-turns and different songs) it's from a place of knowing they are the expert of their feelings. A place where I imagine myself as them. A place of caring and curiosity and understanding. 

And that has made all the difference. 

Please, friends, when people tell you about their experience of the world - the way they feel, the way they're treated, the things that help them - take the time to put yourself on hold for a moment and imagine their truth. Believe them, listen, and imagine. 

Then put the book down for a moment, sit in the silence together, while you let that truth marinate. And together you can explore ways to be happier, healthier, and safer. 

From the place where you validate and value the experiences and feelings of each other.
It makes all the difference!

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

My brother
 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Autism Answer: I Don't Know What It's Like To Be You

Rain in my yard


Right now I live in a poor neighborhood in a small, old, run down trailer house with my black much older than me mechanic husband, my big white gay son, my anti-social overly passionate mixed-race son, and my book reading white skinned woman hippie self. I sit and have coffee in my kitchen (avoiding the holes in the floor) with my socially struggling once-upon-a-time autistic brother. Together we talk often about how much we miss my brown skinned half Arab older sons who have moved away to another state.

I rarely notice all of that. Mostly, I live in my house with my family and hang out with my brother. 

But I would be lying if I didn't admit that I've changed and grown because of learning from
My hubby working with our boys
the experiences my black mechanic older husband shares with me, and the situations my white gay son tells me he's been in, and the reasons my overly passionate mixed-race son reveals for his anti-social behavior. My once-upon-a-time autistic brother relates realities that might have remained unknown to me while my brown skinned boys make choices to not grow their beards when certain racial tensions are high.  I'm certain, too, that my family has shifted when hearing me share stories of my book reading hippie-woman experiences.


Meanwhile, we've all learned things with and because of our neighbors who deal with poverty in vastly different ways. 

We are all different and should never try to change that. 


I believe in integration without the expectation of assimilation.

But we are all the same, too. We are all one race of alive beings on one alive planet. We all live together, and that's not negotiable. We can choose to do so with curious interest and love, or with mistrust and judgements. It's completely and totally up to us. 

As individuals and as society - which is made up of individuals who teach each other - we have the responsibility and power to tell the story of who we are and how we live together. Stories need controversy and obstacles to be intriguing, but they do not need "bad guys". (Although, if you want a story with bad guys you need not look further than most large man-made systems and corporations. As they grow they become dangerous.)

I live in a poor neighborhood with my diverse family. Together we share with each other how we experience the world. Although our beliefs often clash, always they are valid and valuable. 

The story of my life is filled with controversy, love, worry, life, death, hope, hurt, and diversity. There are not "bad guys" in my story to distract from the stuff that matters most to me; there are flavors and feelings.  

However, I'll admit that my husband believes in bad guys, so his story does include them. Yet we live together and let our clashing beliefs make a music we can both dance to. We find ways to harmonize and change both of our stories by sharing and shifting together. 

It's not always easy. But that's why I know we don't need bad guys to fill our world with interesting twists and turns! Loving each other and insisting on learning together is filled with intrigue and interesting plot twists!

The goal is not to pretend we aren't different. We are! And it's fascinating! The goal, or my goal at least, is to explore those differences from where we are the same. Where we remember that we are all equally valuable living beings with the same need to be free, accepted, and honored. We all eat, breathe, bleed, think, hope, dream, hurt, and love. But we are all born different, and become different, and are treated different, too.

The people I live with don't know what it's like to be a woman because they aren't women. I don't know what it's like to be a black man in small town Texas. I don't know what it's like to be a young gay man here, either. Or mixed race and passionately sensitive. I can barely imagine how it is to grow up autistic in a world that pities and fears cognitive disabilities and I have no clue what it means to walk around in brown skin with a handsome Arab face in America. But we can do our best to tell each other and listen, and to make necessary changes. We can, and we must. 

We can, we must, and I do. 

I get it wrong, but I do it anyway, hoping to get it right. 

Which is a place where we are all the same. 
We're all hoping to get it right.

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

My husband teaching our youngest son.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Autism Answer: Say YES! Then Find Your Way To Make It Happen


Okay, this is cool!!

My mom (international autism & parenting expert Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad ) often tells me how much she loves her families. <----- That's what she calls her "clients". 

Although she can't tell me much about them (confidentiality and all that jazz) I feel as though they are my family, too. After all, the love and learning mom gets from and gives to them, she brings home to us. So, they are certainly my brothers and sisters! 

Often mom will talk passionately and with awe about the creative ideas her families come up with to hire her. Several families pitching in, or tying it in with a family vacation, or saving on travel by hiring her when she's in the area, or agreeing to be on camera for her international series FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD. A series that has, by the way, brought her more families! 

So when I ran across this Go Fund Me campaign created by Tamis Baron, a woman in California who is having my mom do a workshop in her home, I fell in love with yet another sister! She is hoping to help her nearly 90 year old dad and other family members, and also to give the gift of my mom to her community. From the campaign description: 


"He was diagnosed first with schizophrenia in his 50s and then rediagnosed with ADHD in his 60s. At 87 they were hell bent on diagnosing him with Dementia. I lived with him for a while the last 2 years and my experience was that, although he was slow in thinking and had short term memory issues, he acted more like people I knew who were Autistic. So I went on a quest for answers looking for something that fit."

This is a brilliant woman who knew she wanted to do the In Home Parenting Program, knew it was going to help a heap of people in her family and community, and knew it would be the most fun way to learn. So, she said YES and booked it! Now, she's finding her way to make it happen. 

Read More Here: Autism ASD Speaker and Workshop

*If you live in California, specifically around Sonoma County, you can also attend the workshop!*

Please have a peek at the campaign and share it with your social network. Of course, it would be wonderful if you could contribute. But even more than that I want to share with you a community of people who say YES and then make it happen.  

And I love it most of all when what they say YES to is the love, play, and neurofeedback that my mom brings to families around the world!!! 

Tamis has also created this Facebook Page, Autism ASD Speaker and Workshop, so folks can learn more about the event, choose to attend, ask questions, and chat about what they learn. It's a public page so head on over and LIKE it!

This is one small and important example of how every one of us can say YES to the things our guts and souls tell us we want/need, and then find creative ways to make those things happen. My mom did it for us kids all of our lives and we have grown happy and successful because of it. Despite every single thing in our lives seeming to say NO my mom knew when to say YES anyway, and then make it happen. 

I love watching other people do that too! 

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

 Check out this video Tamis (the event creator) made of her dad - who was diagnosed with Asperger's two years ago. And then consider contributing to the event. Perhaps you can even meet Tamis and her dad at the event by attending it yourself!