Friday, April 21, 2017

Autism Answer: My Sons Are Awesome! (aka Our Children Are Awesome!)


"My sons are awesome!" ~Me

"My sons are awesome!" <---- This is an absolute truth, in my mind. From the moment I knew they would one day be born, this was an unarguable fact. No need for proof; no need for double-blind studies; no need for anyone else to agree. My sons are awesome much like gravity happens.

The challenge then hasn't been helping them become awesome, because that's an absolute unarguable foundation I take for granted. The challenge, the job, has been helping us discover the many ways they are awesome. The work is guiding us to recognize and value the healthiest awesome parts and tweak the other stuff. Parenting has meant actively seeking ways to fit their awesomeness into the world in an environment that allows it to blossom, without forcing environments to change overly much for them or asking them to change overly much for environments, but instead seeking people and places that benefit from each other's awesomeness while always being willing to move on - without animosity - when things changed. Because things always change.

"Our children are awesome." ~The World

When we remember that all of our children are inherently awesome it becomes natural to seek and highlight and put into action the proof of that. Less often will we teach from a place of what not to do or be, and far more frequently will we uniformly seek and add to the things we're pleased with and happily surprised by. And our children will respond by revealing ever more of that naturally occurring awesome for our attention! 

Honestly, I believe that when we remember this truth, that all of our children are awesome, we will still make mistakes and screw up as moms and dads and aunts and uncles
and teachers and doctors, but we will be screwing up from a place with an unobstructed view. The lie of "what's wrong with these kids, what needs fixing" won't command our attention and hide the vista of truth. The truth that our children are awesome and we get to help them harness and hone that. They will make mistakes while trying, as will we, but it's all just the mistakes of people who are awesome.

TIP: It's important to remember that all of our children are awesome, so we don't make the mistake of playing the "better than" or "compared to" game. That's an unwinnable game. A cruel, painful, lying, unwinnable game. 

Our children are all born equally awesome. That's just how it is, friends. No biggie.

"My sons are awesome!" ~Me 

You're darn right they are!! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Autism Answer: Five Things I Learned (Or Re-Learned) Watching Fix It In Five


Five things I learned (or re-learned) while watching Season Two, Episode Three of FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD:

*Disclaimer: These are things I learned, not necessary things the show was intending to teach. As a writer and creator of content myself I know well that often the lessons learned are different - even contradictory - to the message I might have been meaning. I also know that it's surprising and wonderful when people learn things from my writing that is completely reflective of the audience themselves and not me. That, actually, is largely the point. 
 
1) Process Out Loud: When playing with our kids/students/friends we can process the whys and whats of our actions out loud in order to easily explain - aka teach - our choices. It's become a habit for plenty of us to ask for our kids to do things, or to stop doing things, without breaking down our reasons for what we're asking. So all they know is we want this or don't want that, but they don't know why. And honestly? We, ourselves, often don't even know why! Processing out loud helps us figure it all out while teaching.

2) Be Comfortable Talking About The Uncomfortable: We gotta get over any yucky feelings we have when saying things like "don't touch your penis in public" because our discomfort teaches discomfort. Conversely, our comfort can teach comfort. If we are completely comfortable, then the statement plays its intended role; it becomes a simple, consistent, social skill lesson. For the person we are teaching and for all the folks nearby.

3) Value Giving Control: Most schools and programs value getting compliance from students and then offering small bits of control over their schedules and lives. Rewarding compliance with control. However, when we give more control of schedules and life choices to students in the first place, when we value giving them more control, we can ask for the compliance we hope for while giving them an important role in their own lives. We can teach the social skills we want badly to teach - and most people want to learn - while doing the things they are wanting to do. The lessons are in the moments, not the schedule.

4) Always Assume You Are Understood: There is an unfortunate trend among us to assume we can talk over our children's heads, or over the heads of folks who are socially challenged. Not cool, man. Always "Act as if, and then simplify." Act as if everything is understood, and then simplify the pieces and parts for clarity. Perhaps, by processing out loud! (#1) 

"Act as if, and then simplify." ~Lynette Louise, "The Brain Broad"

5) You Are Never Done Learning: This isn't something specifically taught in the episode, this is something I learned by noticing my own reactions to things. Most of the situations and lessons offered in this show are familiar to me, yet I found myself surprised during moments of my own, well, surprise! With my brothers and my sons, I am comfortable with, and aware of, their unusual habits. I have practiced explaining and teaching to them (and have been honored to play a role in our growing healthy together!) and I am tuned into their energy. I can feel when their moods will shift. I can ride the waves of our moods without too much worry about where we'll end up. However, watching a new family always brings new habits and moods. And even though the new family is so very similar to ours, it always feels nervous and new to me. And I always have to learn what I already know all over again! Generalizing, it seems, takes practice. At least for me!

BONUS THING I RE-LEARNED:
6) I adore Jody, Xavier, and Gina.
I adore families. I adore how willing so many of us are to figure out a new way to teach and to love when we find ourselves in a story that asks for it. I adore watching The Brain Broad shine such love out of her eyes day after day after day.



*These five things I learned are from only one episode. And I could have written more. Seriously, friends, this show is a sparker of infinite thoughts, ideas, and actions. It can be seen (all episodes, and both seasons) for FREE on The Autism Channel. Visit my mom's site for more links and info: http://www.lynettelouise.com/fixitinfive/

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 
____________________________________
 
PROMO CODE FOR PURCHASE:
The show (both seasons) is also available for rent/purchase via Vimeo on Demand. This promo code will get you any/all of the episodes at 50% off: Awareness2017

Purchasing the show is a wonderful way to have infinite access to all that it has to offer. Also, you can (and I think you should!) offer it to events and schools. You can put on an event yourself! Not only that but your purchase helps fund the editing and filming of the next three seasons (Israel is in the editing phase). 

Please consider purchasing both seasons!  

Promo Code:
Awareness2017

Season One (Uganda):
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/fixitinfive/135616261

Season Two (USA):
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/brainbroad/136013375

Enjoy!!!



 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Autism Answer: Exploring Memories


A MEMORY: I’m sitting in my hot car outside of the high school. The music is on and I’m singing my heart out to Heaven On Their Minds from Jesus Christ Superstar, my windows open and my eyes closed to better get lost in the lyrics. Also, closing my eyes is easier than apologizing to my unfortunate audience of other parents in cars, waiting for the kids to be dismissed. Of course, unlike me, they have left their cars and air conditioning running so their windows are closed. I feel a little bit good for the environment simultaneously as I’m bad for the ears.

I’m pulled suddenly out of my headspace by a tap on the shoulder. It’s a dad to one of the girls my gay son (not yet out of the closet) is dating. We laugh for a minute about my singing when he asks curiously, “So, what do you think of this relationship our kids are in?” It’s a legitimate question. His daughter, my son, and one other girl have decided to all date each other. They hold hands and sneak off into the woods to smooch. “Hey, it’s working for them. They seem happy.”

My answer is careful, I don’t know this man well. He shrugs. “As long as my daughter isn’t dating one of those black boys, you know?”

I’m uncomfortable, of course. “You know that my husband is black, right?” I’m trying to keep the mix of anger, fear, hurt, and confusion from my voice.

“Oh, that’s different. I’m talking about these black boys, not your husband.”

I don’t know what to say and I don’t want to be put in the position of having to know what to say. I just want to live somewhere else where people don’t call them black boys and they turn off their cars because they care about the environment. His judgment breeds my own.

A MEMORY: My friend and I are sitting beneath the stars sipping coffee. The breeze is delicious and the coffee refreshing and our conversation nourishing. I’m on a roll, talking about how lately I’m beginning to see the value of impatient reactions. How sometimes an issue needs to be obnoxiously shoved to get it out of the deep rut it’s been stuck in. I barely mention the Black Lives Matter movement when my friend interrupts angrily. “That movement makes me so angry… all lives matter…why do they think violence is the way….so don’t act like that if you want to be treated fairly…not all of them but when they get together…sure, it used to be bad for them but now it’s not…they are erasing all the good work…”

I love, love, love my friend, but I don’t agree with almost anything she has said. Yet, I listen. I remember, even, thinking similar things myself once upon a time. Then I assert my view. I take my time sharing how I see it, not shying away or shoving my ideas at her. We never agree on this issue, but we have things to think about that night.

I have an endless list of memories that have reminded me to speak out, to be forgiving, to listen and learn.'

The more I open myself up to these learnings the more I want things to change while I also feel comfortable with the truth that change is a constant; there is no finish line.

A MEMORY: I am reminded of a conversation I had with my niece. She is pansexual and my son is gay. Labels that, themselves, prove a problem: the problem of wanting labels to explain people.

We were talking about the lack of representation in film. She complained that when they do include LGBTQ storylines, the sexuality is used as a plot device.

“I hear you,” I agreed. “But I admit to doing it myself, in my screenplay CARHOPPING. The thing is, we’re still at a place in society where the issues that come up when using it as a device need to be acknowledged and respected. The struggles and situations that we experience in a society that chooses to marginalize and abuse the LGBTQ community are worth exposing. But I do agree with you. If TV and film represented all communities as though they are already accepted and expected, if we tell stories with the assumption of acceptance, the world will follow faster. The characters will just be who they are and the stories won't be about fighting for that right or struggling with the lack of it.”

Most of our important shifts - as individuals and as communities - are a result of listening to and learning from diversity and perspectives different from our own. For too long we didn't seek these perspectives purposely. We fought them.

Now, though, we have access to films, books, articles, videos, from all over the spectrum of humanity! I encourage us to take advantage of that!!

Let's purposely experience foreign films and books written by people drastically different from ourselves!

AND WE CAN REVISIT OUR MEMORIES: Those times when we were offered a foreign idea or opinion, or when we ourselves were foreign.

We have so much already within us and offered to us. If we aren't in the mood to reach out we can reach in.

BONUS: Memories don't rely on technology or money. Plus, they don't have commercials and they rarely spam you! tee hee!

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


Have a peek inside my book of moments and memories!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Autism Answer: Diverse Brains Getting Differently Happy

I write often and widely about the power of what I call intentional storytelling as an effective way to live happily. 
 
In a nutshell, intentional storytelling is simply telling the story of our days, moments, and lives with the intention of highlighting positivity. For example, when my husband asks, "How was your day?" I respond with the intention of telling him all the ways my day was enlightening, surprising, fun, and/or awesome. I write about the power of doing this when we tell the story of our moments to ourselves, our friends, and our social media connections. Of course, some days are more challenging than others. In this case I still tell the story of my day intentionally, but I don't try to pretend it wasn't hurtful or hard; instead I tell the story (to myself and my loved ones) with the intention of discovering and revealing truths about myself and my world rather than merely to complain, blame, or shame.

Now, what I've learned in my life as a sister and friend of cognitively challenged adults and children, is that for a huge percent of our population this is far harder to do than I had once imagined. (CONFESSION: I used to assume that many folks just wanted to be sad or angry or unhappy for either attention or to avoid seeming naive.) My mom, however, is an international mental health expert - and single mom of eight now grown kids, six adopted four with autism and more diagnosis - who uses neurofeedback along with behavior shifts to help balance brains that are firing in ways that make happiness and comfort nearly impossible. 

My mom travels the world helping families who are seemingly impossibly challenged find health and happiness. Her work is based in brain science and relies heavily on uncovering personal beliefs, shifting behavior, and using neurofeedback to make it all easier. 

She is phenomenal! She is effective, thoughtful, and non-stop brilliant! I continue to learn from her and she helps me reset my understanding of what it is to think positive and to be happy. 

So, I still talk and write about the power and simplicity of intentional storytelling but with a deeper understanding of the complexity and diversity of people and our brains. Learning that my way isn't always the right way or the best way hasn't made it less in my eyes; it's made it an addition I can confidently offer. Suddenly, I don't seek the reasons people aren't "doing it right" or "not really trying" when my tips don't work, instead I think about the so many different ways we all see "right" and we all truly try. 

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

I encourage you to peek at my mom's international autism docu-series to learn more about making the brain happy!
 
 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Autism Answer: A Boy And His Prom


As promised in my last post, I'm playing my role this Autism Awareness Month as the introducer of people I know and love that are actively making a difference. 

I also promised to spam update you with pictures of my son on prom night. 

I love making promises that allow me to show off my family with legitimate reason! 

So, here's an introduction to my youngest son: 

When he was little we would go to playlands and parks, he would spend at least an hour holding me tight wanting to play but far too socially uncomfortable. If there was even one child other than his brothers, it would take at least an hour for him to play. I would sip
coffee, encourage him, and wait.

He would be invited to birthday parties, sometimes we would even drive to the address on the invitation and start to walk in, but as a child he never quite found himself able to attend. He'd cry and talk for hours at himself about why, how, maybe next time. 

Now, he loves working in marching band, theater, leadership. He has found a social way for himself: knowing his role and having a job to do. Also, he enjoys playing video games with one-friend-at-a-time. Another way to be social without feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable.

However, he still wants to be able to play at the park, hang out with friends, go to prom. So - though he never seeks it - he puts himself in that uncomfortable place when an opportunity presents itself. He shows up at the party or buys a ticket to the prom. He makes sure I'm available to pick him up. He talks to himself for days leading up to an event about why he can change his mind, why he shouldn't, what he might talk about if he goes.

I'm so impressed by him. He expands his own edges and asks me only to understand, to drop him off, to pick him up, to let him transition. He's amazing, handsome, and brave.

I adore this boy.
I hope he has fun at the prom!





PROM UPDATE
 
BEFORE: He's sitting silently on his couch, head down and tux on. "I'm trying to think about what to say to people. I'm starting to feel that feeling that I don't want to go. Can you drop me off and not walk to the door with me? I don't want to hurt your feelings I just need that time to get in the right mood."

MOMENTS AFTER I DROP HIM OFF: My phone rings and he says, "There's so many people here. I'm just sitting outside waiting for the crowd at the door to thin out. Want me to send you a picture of me sitting here?"

HOURS LATER: I pull into the parking lot and text him so he knows I'm there. "I won best dancer, do you see all this sweat? I did a back flip. Don't look at me like that, I was careful. Man, the sweat is soaking through my shirt! That was fun!"

CONCLUSION: He had a great time!

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

"I think it's because of my autism that I teach myself which worries to ignore and which ones are worth overcoming." ~Declyn
 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Autism Answer: Playing My Role This Autism Awareness Month

Happy April, friends!!

Tonight is my youngest son's junior prom, tomorrow is my mom's 60th birthday and world autism awareness day, and this entire month is all about bringing answers, ideas, insights, and experiences from the world of autism to the larger public. 

My youngest son didn't make eye contact for years, struggled seriously with sensory issues, and still works hard to handle his social strangenesses and misunderstandings. 

My mom spent her childhood seeing sound as color, perseverating over fairness and prejudice, and then adopted several youngsters with similar issues as her own, knowing they could help each other heal. (And they did!)

Both my youngest son and my mom now reach out consistently and creatively to people who are misunderstood, alone, or otherwise hurting from an unbalanced brain.

My mom writes and performs songs that are addictive and lyrically inspiring, she writes articles and books that bring science and personal narrative together in poetic and clever ways, she speaks on stages for audiences that can't help but stand on their feet with emotion, she puts all of her resources and love and knowledge into her international docu-series FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD (on The Autism Channel) and she works intimately with families in homes around the world. This, my friends, is only a partial list of the actions she takes to reach out with guidance and understanding.

My son looks up to my mom in beautiful ways and plans one day to join her as a leader, speaker, and performer with a message. 

I don't have any of the skills, history, or insights that those two have but I value, learn from, and honor theirs. 

My work then, every April, is to introduce you to the wonderful life-changing work they do.

So now, I have the pleasure of introducing you to my mom: international autism and mental health expert, gorgeous grandma, and mom extraordinaire! 

Lynette Louise site: www.LynetteLouise.com / Brain & Autism site: www.BrainBody.net

*Truly, an action-oriented way you, your friends, educators, news organizations, and neighbors can take advantage of Autism Awareness Month and my mom would be to rent or purchase one or two seasons (Uganda, USA, respectively) of FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD via Vimeo On Demand. Also, it would be the greatest 60th birthday gift you could possibly give my mom!*


SNEAK PEEK OF THIS EVENING: A photo of my son dressed in his prom tux!  





Happy April, friends!! 
I hope you find a similarly fulfilling and fun role to play this Autism Awareness Month!! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Autism Answer: Activists And Advocates At Home

Me with my boys

Fellow advocates, 

How cool is this? 

We explore our authentic selves and true beliefs, we do the work of simply living those discoveries (although, because we are the type to live differently, it's not always simple) and in this way we are taking action and advocating for what we want! 

And because we're filling our minds with discovery and execution, we aren't overly focusing on anger or dispute. It is our habit to seek revelation and perspective in clashing ideas or opinions. When we speak out it's generally to inform, share, understand, question, consider, and give voice to the unique experiences we share. Though, the more we speak out and connect with fellow advocates, the more we see our experiences aren't entirely unique.

We are on the front lines when we proclaim: "I insist on the freedom to live life my way and to allow my loved ones to do the same," and by working to do that. Turning off the sounds and soundbites of society so we can truly know what it means to live free and organically is a bold move that creates change. The courageous, clever, bold move of activists and world-changers. Us.

Let's remind each other now and then, when we are feeling as though we don't do enough or as if we are avoiding the hard work of making things happen, that the important role of living congruent with our beliefs and expectations, teaching our loved ones to do the same, is the advocacy (and even civil disobedience) that our world needs; equal to any other.
 
Thank you, fellow advocates and activists, for supporting me by being you.

Let's keep up the good work!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

~Tsara

Writer & Coffee Sipper
Activist  
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)



________________________________________________________________________ 
*If you'd like to read more thoughts and stories grab yourself (and a friend!) a copy of my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up. It's the kind of book that you can pick up and read at random and - as the author, I really hope this part is true - feel a connection, support, or new idea begin to blossom. But even if it doesn't do that it will for sure give you a peek into the life of a girl growing up surrounded by diversity, challenge, and a stubborn habit of finding something wonderful in every seemingly small moment. A stubborn habit that often annoys my family but always gives us a gift, too. Even if that gift is annoying my family. tee hee!
Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/mothertere161957.html