Friday, January 13, 2017

Autism Answer: Werewolves and Anxiety

Walking into the high school with my second youngest son (on our way to watch my youngest son perform) he stopped suddenly and squished my cheek.

"I think I figured out why I love werewolves so much."

"Umm... okay."

We started walking again, heading with the crowd toward the ticket sale line, and he explained. "As soon as we started walking toward the school I could feel my anxiety rise, my body felt nervous and fuzzy. Then when we walked in I felt a shift, a change, and I even noticed my body move like in the movies when people change forms, become the wolf. My anxiety has always been like that. I feel it coming, and then I feel myself change no matter how hard I try not to. I can't control it." 

I stared at him for a minute. As he had explained his theory I'd watched his body move subtly like werewolves in movies. It was fascinating! Insightful, scary, enlightening; useful!

"Wow, that makes so much sense! Do you feel the anxiety now?"

"Oh, yes. Always at this school." He turned at looked straight into my eyes. "Always at this school."

By now we had made it to the front of the line. I purchased our tickets, exchanged a few excited words about the upcoming show with the mom volunteer, and then held my son's hand as we headed into the theater. 

"Well, I'll tell your brother how much his show meant to you. That you were willing to risk staying in your werewolf form for him. But if you need to leave at any point just tell me. For now, you can control the anxiety - or 'the wolf' - by choosing your environment."

"Thanks, mom." 

He looked relaxed. He held my hand. 

We enjoyed the show.

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

My son and I, at the show!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Autism Answer: Acting - A Place For His Gifts/Challenges

Declyn / Kenickie

DECLYN: "Could you feel it? Could you feel Kenickie's sadness when Rizzo pushed him away? Was I showing the hurt?"

My son played the role of Kenickie in our local high school's production of Grease. It was amazing! My son was brilliant and so was the entire cast and crew.

ME: "Yes, Declyn, I could. You did great."

When he was younger his hyper-empathy made him afraid to be out in the world. He hugged my leg tight and felt all the feelings. Sometimes it would be wonderful for him, particularly since I was sensitive to his sensitivities so chose our outings carefully, and mostly joy and comfort would be felt. However, too often other people's feelings of hurt or fear would be taken on by him. And so he avoided crowds - playlands and birthday parties, and he built (with purpose) an exhausting persona he could wear to school. A place where the passions run wild; unpredictable and caged into an unnatural setting.

DECLYN: "I don't know, I think I can do better. I didn't fully feel it this time. Kenickie acts cool, but he's really hurt."

Over the years he (with only a tiny bit of guidance from me and the many other grown-ups in his world) has found ways to best handle and even take advantage of his hyper-empathy. Leadership roles help because he can take over and push his uplifting belief in everyone onto the group. Of course, he's a teenager so this is sometimes done in an unbalanced way, but the idea is sound.

ME: "Well, you know I'll be at all three performances so I'll let you know if we feel it different as an audience next time."

But the role of actor seems to suit him gorgeously! He can channel that hyper-empathy, examine it, wear it on stage, and then cast it off at the end of the show. Even though his empathy isn't easily cast off (or he would likely have learned to do that long ago) he can consider moments of overwhelming emotion shared from others as learnings, as research. As an actor, you do feel other's feelings. You feel them and you harness them and you show them. Then, you put them away.

DECLYN: "Thanks! It's not as challenging as it could have been. The girl playing Rizzo is good so it makes it easier for me."

Acting could be a dangerous thing for someone with his social challenge - a hyper-empathy mixed with a strong feeling of self-importance - but it can also be a brilliant place for exploring and channeling and using his passion wisely.

ME: "Ya, you have a great cast! It's fantastic to see how well you all work together. The way you help each other shine."

As a mom watching her youngest son sort out who he is and how to make the best of that, well, I'm overwhelmed with love, happiness, and gratitude to watch him choose to make acting brilliant for himself.

Also, I'm totally lucky to have been in the audience for Grease (three times!!) and can't wait for their next production!!

I hope with all of my heart that you and your loved ones are always able to discover ways to bring out the best in your gifts/challenges!!

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Autism Answer: Ask For The Why Of Actions

A Thought While Sipping Coffee: 

When I see adults talking to children with an attitude of, "I am the boss of you and you're only being 'good' when you do as I say," I can feel like I'm lost and alone and unsure of what action I should take, and I often feel like crying. 

Yet, when I see adults talking to children with an attitude of, "I've learned things about living that I want to show you and you know things I want to remember," I feel a connection and beauty, like I've met a kindred spirit; and I also often feel like crying. 

We tend to do a lot of the same things for different reasons (crying, for example) so don't be shy about asking - yourself and your loved ones - for the 'why' of a behavior or action. 

Also, allow yourself and your loved ones the freedom to discover the answer of why over time. 

"Remember, the timetable is arbitrary. There is no point at which a child must be done and done is an illusion.” ~Lynette Louise (aka The Brain Broad)
Some of the most important things I've learned about myself, my loved ones, and society in general, came while exploring the why of seemingly odd behaviors or actions. Autism, as we well know, invites some interesting actions! Yet always, when my interest is authentic and my communication open, we can figure out a why. And always, it's revealing and surprising. 

So ask for the why of actions. Even with family and friends who struggle to communicate. Take time and have fun with it! Be honestly interested and listen creatively. I'm not good at understanding my brother's words, but over the years I've learned so much about him. Admittedly, with help from our mom - but that's part of listening and being honestly interested. My brother talks to me and tells me the why of his actions; often the why of his actions is an attempt to talk to me. 

Communication and action are one and the same. But we don't all speak the same action-language. 

So, ask for the why. The foundation of the action.
If I'm crying, go ahead and ask why.
If my brother is jumping and screaming, go ahead and ask why.
In exploring why we learn so much.
We connect and we learn. 
About ourselves and each other.

PERSONAL REQUEST: When you're talking to kids I hope you'll consider an attitude of, "I've learned things about living that I want to show you and you know things I want to remember." I truly think it's a great way to talk to kids. 

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


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Autism Answer: Walking Down The Aisle Into The New Year

Jory and Sabrina

"Is it okay, Sabrina? You don't mind? I don't want you to feel like we're taking over your wedding day." 

"It's fine, don't worry," she promised me from her spot on the bed, snuggled in with my son. "We just want to be married. That's what we care about." 

My son kissed her on the forehead and smiled his agreement.

My oldest son got married on Dec. 27, 2016!

He and Sabrina have been together for less than a year, they are going to be parents, they got engaged a month ago, and now they are married. 

It's a gorgeous timely story! Ending the year with a new beginning.

For many reasons I am confident this marriage will be wonderful. 

Largely because my son is so himself when he's with his new wife. I've watched him grow and explore pieces of who he is and who he wants to be in other relationships, and I've enjoyed that. But with Sabrina he seems so comfortable with who he is while also getting excited about their future.  

"I'll accept the manager job but if it doesn't work out for us, I'll demote myself. Go back to this job that I already know I love," he explained to me a few days earlier. He's always put doing what he loves first and career advancement second. But a little later on I heard him chatting with Sabrina about their evening shift at the cinema where they both work. He was offering to switch roles with her, knowing she prefers working concession and she dislikes ushering. He's putting what he loves first again, and it's her.

It is an ending for me. He is not my man anymore, he's our man (until I let go enough to let him be her man. tee hee!). 

Of course, we are all aware that actually, he is his man. 

Another reason I am confident this marriage will be wonderful; we are all aware of this. Of how we are our own selves, and how our relationships serve us by giving us the freedom to explore that. She is herself. He is himself. They are themselves, together. 

"What time is the wedding?" I asked for the fifth time on the morning of the wedding. Knowing I could be getting my fifth different answer.

"My cousin is going to try to be here by one," Sabrina answered. Her cousin is the person who is going to marry them, and this new time is a good one. 
"Awesome! My niece will probably be able to make it for the wedding if it's at one." I was happy about this. I had been perfectly comfortable with a wedding that shifts and shimmies, dancing to the tune of work schedules. But I also hoped all of my nieces and sons could be there. With this new time, they could be! I was hoping it would stick.  

Mostly I am confident that this marriage will be wonderful because they are clear about what they want. There is no ambiguity, no uncertainty, and no posturing for others. There is only: "We want to be married." 

So, with everyone around them wanting to be there, they allowed us but didn't pressure us. The one thing that mattered most to them was: They wanted to be married. 

And at one o'clock, surrounded by most of our family, they were!  

My son and his wife are stepping into the new year together and are allowing us to join them, although we aren't mandatory to their happiness. (But, man, he's still mandatory to mine! I gotta work on that! ;D )

Moments before the ceremony my son chatted on the phone with my husband, who couldn't be there. "I figured I'd do what you did, dad," my son said. "Getting married. It looks like a good deal." I was beaming. I was amazed. I was momentarily lost in the insight and truth of this statement.

My husband and I have been married for sixteen years and though our marriage has been anything but traditional, it has been wonderful. I remember what my hubby said to me when I told him we couldn't get married, that it could never work because he would never leave our town and I wouldn't stay, he said, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it." 

I shook my head at his naivete. How could it be that simple? 

And yet, it has been. And that difficult, too. We've had to build bridges with unusual scraps and tools. Yet every time, we've done it. And it's been a good deal. 

So I'm amazed and impressed and grateful to watch my son and his new bride do the same. Build a life that matches who they want to be and how they want to live. Personalized and not traditional. But wonderful!  
They are living life in their way and for themselves.

In this coming year I hope we all remember to do the same. To choose our own goals. To take action. To be clear. To raise the bar. To do so with the world in mind but ourselves at heart. 

"I had a dream that your nieces were my flower girls," Sabrina told me in her barely awake voice from the coziness of her early morning bed. "They can walk me down the aisle, since I don't have anyone to do it, dropping flower petals on the floor leading to the living room." 

Stepping into this new year let's all be willing to see our missing pieces as open opportunities. Let's be open to creating a wedding of our own dreams, not someone else's. Let's walk down the aisle strong in the knowledge that we are marrying the life we choose; not one that is chosen for us. 

May we all remember to do what my son and his wife have done.

Happy New Year my wonderful friends!
I can't wait to build more life with you in the coming year!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Congratulations Jory and Sabrina!!
You have given me more than I could ever hope to give back. Luckily I know that soon you will be getting the same from your own little peanut!!! xoxo
Jory and Sabrina - Bride and Groom!

Flower Girls

Living room wedding family photo

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Autism Answer: An Author Interview And An Internet Crush

I feel so bloody honored every time I'm invited to do an author interview.
With each publication or podcast my honor is authentic and my appreciation of another new and different audience to share ideas with effects the mood of my joy and the focus of my interview answers. Different audiences mean different parts of life get to be explored.
Each time, I want to sing and dance and appreciate a universe that accepts me as a writer and introduces me to passionate thoughtful others I can learn from. 
My interview at Books for the Soul was no exception. I love the literature that is highlighted there, and the thoughtful nature with which it is reviewed, interpreted, and shared. I have a small internet crush on, Bianca Salvant, the gorgeous woman who runs the site. So being interviewed by her, for her audience, was a high point of my 2016!
When I received her interview questions my heart quickened and I felt my online crush grow almost heavy. Her questions were thoughtful. They revealed a host who cares, considers, and knows how to invite deep conversation. I felt a thick desire to return that thoughtfulness with my own brand of the same. So I dug deep and answered honestly. And boy, did I answer! (I think I sent her seven pages worth of answers!)
I swooned ever more when I saw how thoughtfully she edited the interview! Caring for her audience, caring for her online space, and caring for her guest, me, she turned my seven pages into something with shape and appropriate length. Editing is an underappreciated form of creation. I am not skilled, at all, in that area. But, boy, do I appreciate and value folks who are! And Bianca had her work cut out for her when I flooded her inbox with my interview answers!! Her questions were just so darn great! I couldn't help but tell her more and more and more of the things they were helping me learn about myself and our world! Yet somehow she managed to whittle it down, holding the shape of my thoughts while keeping it relevant to her audience. It is beautiful! 

Please, read the interview here, and then give yourself a gift. Spend some time reading more of her essays and reviews. Be sure to like the Books for the Soul Facebook Page and follow Bianca on Twitter
And if you are a writer of literature, consider reaching out to Bianca for a review and an interview. She is uniquely able to be candid and kind. She will help you know your work, and yourself, in a new way.
You may even get a teeny tiny internet crush on her. 
But, stop it. I saw her first! 
tee hee!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Autism Answer: When Our Uncles And Their Stories Are Murdered

My Uncle Henry

My adopted uncle was murdered before he could teach me much about his culture. So now he's dead and I don't know. That's how it happens. #Indiginous
Thinking of my Uncle Henry a lot lately.

My mom was his biggest champion, inviting him to live with us when he'd been kicked out of everywhere, fighting with everyone to see him, to love him, and to listen to him. My uncle was understandably lost, alone, conflicted, afraid to be himself and afraid not to be himself. My sister and I loved it when he sat on our living room floor to make bannock but we weren't ever entirely comfortable around him. Too many people looked at him wrong. Plus, my mom loved him fiercely because she had to. She couldn't just relax and love him because loving my Native American uncle meant fighting for him. So we loved him too, but with a feeling of responsibility we didn't understand.  
I felt conflicted. As a niece who was interested in her mysterious uncle, I wanted her to keep him alive and to tell me more. But as a selfish little girl, I wanted her to stop fighting for him now, to let him go, to just watch me and my sister sing and play.
Mom didn't spend much time on what was wanted and instead focussed on what had to be done. She fought on. She gathered more people to care for; diversity of culture and abilities surrounded us. My siblings are from all kinds of cultural backgrounds (Native American, Irish, Japanese) and neurodiversity was the name of our game (autism, Tourette's, genius, retardation) while layers of abuse were all of ours to help peel away. 

My sister and I learned how to love fiercely, too.

And we also learned how to love comfortably.

I think we're always evolving with this issue and I think we do it well. Love, listen, learn, connect, support, teach, ask, tell. Don't fight so much as be and show and love. But don't back down or run away either. Clashes will happen. Loving people who are abused by groups of people means stepping up and standing strong. It means, sometimes, fighting for them.

My adopted uncle was murdered before he could teach me much about his culture. So now he's dead and I don't know. But I can try to learn.

And I do.
I love you, mom.
I love you, Uncle Henry.
I love you, messy messed up world.
I love you.

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

Me with a book that tells a tale of Canada's uncomfortable history with Indigenous people.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Autism Answer: Wings


My son is eighteen and he will talk your ear off about wings. 

He loves to describe (and sometimes draw) one type of angel with very specific wings and then another type of angel with other wings. He'll tell you the history and reason for the wings. Wings with feathers, wings with skin, wings with talons, wings with mechanical sounds and parts. He'll explain why a dragon would have one style of wing while a flying dinosaur might have another. He's uninterested, too, in some types of wings; like birds, planes, and bugs. These wings are all too limiting and real. They don't belong to him. His wings have science and truth that are his own. My son will turn on his music and look far off into himself where, when you ask, he will partly stay in order to better describe the wings. And - most often - he will conclude by telling you the color, style, and size his wings will one day be. 

Because he is absolutely certain that one day he will invent or discover a way to have wings. 

I don't know how, I honestly don't even know why, but I am absolutely certain he will too. 

His imagination is cluttered with wings. 

I love the way it flies.

Wings by Shay Shelton 

Author's Note: A quick thank you to Quirks and Chaos for asking a question on her Facebook page about the often unusual interests some of our friends and family members have. Her question nudged me into sharing this answer. 

Her question gave this answer wings, you could say. tee hee!  

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