Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Autism Answer: Car Shapes and Hippie Talk

Happy Birthday, Rye! I wrote an Autism Answer for you! Cool present, eh?! (Okay, fine, I'm broke. Here's some words. They're free. tee hee!)


Me and Rye.

Yesterday I drove my brother around as we ran a few errands together. We chit chatted in the car about all kinds of things. At one point he talked about why he sometimes thinks about leaving our small town in Texas and moving to Colorado. 

Rye: I like the weather and the landscape. The people are better. Colorado is just better than here. 

Me: (hesitating) Well, you know, it isn't "better" because "better" depends on each individual person. It could be "better" for you but not someone else. 

Rye: (rolling his eyes) I know, I just have a habit of--

Me: (interrupting) Look, Rye, it's me who has a habit of saying "blah, blah, blah, not better or worse, it depends on perspectives, good and bad are mostly opinions, blah, blah, blah". That's a me thing, you don't have to agree. You can think Colorado is better. 

Rye: (looking less annoyed with me) That's true. 

Me: You know how you like to talk about the shape of cars and I don't really care about cars but I mostly listen and learn when you want to talk about cars?

Rye: Ya.

Me: Well, we love each other. So, I listen when you talk about cars and you listen when I talk about believing in hippie-dippy peace, love, non-judgmental, to each his own, live and let live stuff. Because we listen, we also learn some things. But mostly we feel more connected and more aware of each other. It's totally awesome!

Rye: That's true. Hey, can we stop somewhere so I can make a photo copy of this car I drew? I like the shape and want to have a copy. 

Me: (giggling) You bet! We'll stop at my house and use my photo copier. 

We rode on in silence, smiling and comfortable. Connected and aware. Then I added: 

Me: You know, Rye, if you move to Colorado I'll be happy for you but I'll also miss you.

Rye: Ya, I'd miss you too. 

After making a few copies of his car drawing at my house I took him the few blocks back to his apartment. Climbing out of my roundish shaped older model Kia Sorento my brother thanked me for the ride and added: 

Rye: Don't hippies smoke drugs? You don't smoke drugs. But if you move to Colorado you could!

Me: Ha! Maybe I'm not a full blooded hippie! I don't want to smoke dope! But, you know, hippies are about freedom, so I guess I am full blooded. I believe in the freedom not to smoke! 

We giggled and he gave one of his neighbors a friendly wave as he walked into his home. Which is in small town Texas, not far from me. For now, anyway!

Happy birthday, Rye!!! 
Hugs, smiles, peace and love, man!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Enjoy this video starring my brother, Rye, and my mom, Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad. I invite you to take a moment and let him share his life, lessons, struggles, and successes! It's like he's sharing a piece of his birthday cake with you, only it's his life. So, you know, you can be sure the ingredients are organic and nourishing! Don't worry, it also goes well with coffee! xoxo

 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Autism Answer: Vote For What You Want

Author's Note: I wrote most of this post on my Facebook page in 2012. Seems like not much has changed, except perhaps we're deeper in the problem. I find that rather interesting and revealing.  



Okay... don't run away! I know you don't want another political post. I'm not going to highlight politics so much as parenting. The whole voting thing is beyond me, being a Canadian living in TX I'm not invited to the voting party. 

So I'll host my own party, in totally my style! I'm hoping you'll join in the games!

Today people are going to the polls to support those they hope will have a role in government. I think we can all agree that life will not be over if the folks we don't want to win, win. Neither will it become simple and peaceful if the folks we do want to win, win, either. I'm seeing an interesting parenting (autism or not) perspective here. Check this out:

IT'S NOT THE END: When we discover what new laws passed, what party will be the majority, who the presidential candidates will be, and eventually who the president for the following four years will be, yadda, yadda, it is a big deal, but it isn't the end. It may be tempting to get angry or feel desolate. It may be tempting to feel better than or like you've won. I say, don't! I say celebrate if you want, feel bummed if you want, but then keep on expecting and asking for change. PARENTING: When we discover that our kids have autism, we can feel desolate or angry, just as having a child that's terribly talented and well behaved can make us feel better than. Oops! It's okay to take a moment to regroup, or to celebrate our children's skills and abilities, but it's not the end. There will be more to do!

VOTE FOR WHAT YOU WANT: I hear and read lots of talk about voting for the party or candidate that is more likely to win rather than the one you actually support, just so that the party or candidate you don't want will lose. I say, don't! I say, vote for what you want! PARENTING: If you see that your child has an interest in mechanics, and the world tells you that letting him learn with tools or getting your hopes too high is dangerous, that you should maybe buy him a toy car but stick to skills that are going to be easier, don't! Teach safety, follow interests and motivators, learn together. Vote for what you want. 

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT: Vote for what you want. Often that means taking time to get clarity on what that is. Too often we get caught in a stream of wanting what everyone else around us seems to be wanting, or wanting to fight against the stream. Politics is a justifiably passionate issue, whether we participate or not we are all affected. But when we take the time to know what we really want, rather than automatically wanting what our fellow "team mates" are saying we should want, we ask smarter questions and expect more authentic work from our politicians. PARENTING: Parenting opinions are also passionate, justifiably so. Our children deserve to have grown ups that debate, discuss, and explore parenting with passion and open minds. But even here we get caught up in a stream of wanting what everyone seems to be fighting for. The rights to an education! My child's independence! Manners! A job in the future for my kiddo! Talking! etc. These are all valuable things to want, but why do you want them? I'm willing to go out on a limb and guess it has something to do with loving your child and wanting them to feel valuable and happy. So, focus on that. Vote for that. Be sure you get to the core of what you and your child want, then help your child find, be, and practice the skills and hobbies that get them there. Help your child vote for what she wants! 

THERE ARE MORE OPTIONS: Mainstream media would have you believe that there are only a few options. Only a couple of political party. Pshaw! There's more out there, plenty of other qualified and brilliant options! Don't forget about third parties and independents and, well, maybe even you! PARENTING: Have you noticed how often mainstream therapies and education do more harm than good? Drug the kids to get through a school day? And that's normal? No thanks! There is so much more out there! Neurofeedback, diets, homeschooling, nature, apprenticing, painting, computer games, all kinds of things you can take advantage of to teach and help your loved ones! Be creative and personalize for what works with your beliefs, your child, and your home. There are more options than we can imagine, so go ahead and imagine! Invent, mix and match, have fun!

CAMPAIGN WITH KINDNESS: I may not be able to vote, but I sure can be offended and covered in poop with all the slinging that's been going on around me. And I've noticed that the negativity and fear have pretty much spread like cancer. To the point where kids are crying about it. I say, don't! I say, campaign with kindness! PARENTING: Our kids are challenged. They have pains, pixelated vision, intention tremors, gut issues, speech problems etc. that we could focus on and get upset about or sad about or frightened about. OR we could focus on what's working, the amazing attempts and accomplishments! We can get excited about ways to help solve the problems, rather than focus on the danger of the problems. This alone won't make the challenges go away, and believe me--they're not forgotten. But the shift in attitude makes an amazing difference that's hard to believe!! We are more likely to find solutions, and in the meantime we're wearing a healthier attitude. One that our children will pick up on and hopefully hold onto. To be constantly applauded for our attempts and achievements, to be consistently surrounded by the belief that we can figure this stuff out, is much more motivating than being constantly told what not to do and what's wrong with us, even if told kindly. 

DON'T NOT VOTE: Lot's of people are just sick and tired of the whole system. No matter who's in office, money in politics tends to overwhelm even the fanciest and bravest of leaders. But when so many people fought so hard, losing lives and freedom, for your right to vote, your right to be heard, staying home isn't the best way to say thank-you. So I say, don't! I say, speak up and be heard! For those of us that can't vote that means sharing our thoughts and spending our money with purpose. PARENTING: When my brothers were adopted, autism was so rare hardly anyone had heard of it or had a clue what they were looking at when seeing my brothers' adorably odd (and often dangerous!) habits. All four of my brothers could easily have been institutionalized, and my mom had to fight for Dar not to be. But pioneers like my mom, and many other moms and teachers and therapists before and after her, fought for their rights. Fought (as much as it hurts my heart to say this!) to have my brothers seen as people of value. So when you're told (by others or yourself) that your child will never be able to lead a life of comfort or value, don't give up and not vote! Be heard and make change! It's not always going to be easy. Heck, it's rarely going to be easy, but it's always going to be worth it!!

I just got back from driving my youngest brother to the airport. He's on his way to California where he'll get to see my mom, have a little neurofeedback and a short break from work. Nothing fancy, nothing extraordinary. Except, because my mom voted for him, supported him, campaigned with kindness and never gave up.....
IT IS!!!!

So, in elections and laws and policy, speak up and vote for what you want rather than against what you don't want. And let's do the same in our parenting. When my sons or brothers used to stim, speak abruptly, have a meltdown, or seek sensory fulfillment by pressing lips on heaters or poking a stranger's boobs, it was my mom's innate understanding of helping them find what they could do to help themselves rather than focusing on what people didn't want them to do that gave them the tools they use today. She voted for what she, and they, wanted. Almost always. 

Not only is that why everyone has gone waaaaaaaaaaay beyond what they were "supposed" to be able to do, but it's also why my mom (who is an excellent example of a visionary and a leader) could live her life knowing, confidently, that she consistently lived and voted for what she believed in. 

Vote for what you want and know, with confidence, that you are backing up your beliefs by giving them your energy and your vote! 

Happy voting, at home and at the polls, friends!! 

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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Autism Answer: This Face

My heart pounded and fear filtered in with the shower water. I'd gone from blissfully untethered to responsibility, singing to myself in the shower for the first time since my third son was born, to yanked back into the truth of being hugely responsible for more than my own life. Singing in the shower quickly proved a dangerous selfishness. Unaware and no longer interested in whether I was clean in all my places I turned off the shower and grabbed a towel in one sopping wet and fearful motion. I heard it again.

"Shay!! Mom, I have Shay, Shay! Moooooommmm, Shaaaayyyyy!!!"

Running naked and dripping-- both water and breast milk-- into the bedroom where I had left the new baby sleeping I forced myself to smile at Tyran as I took the baby out of his two year old arms and reminded him, "I know you love your baby brother sweetie, but I told you to let him sleep while I was in the shower."

Tyran beamed with love and purpose. "But I love my baby blooder! I want to take care of him when you have a shower!"
Daring to look at the high perch where I had hidden Shay sleeping in his bassinet, hoping to keep him out of sight and mind of Tyran who hadn't been able to stop adoring Shay from the moment he was born, my heart and head shook with the sudden understanding and weight of a love so intense. A love that I understood. Love that gives us the strength and desire to do anything necessary for the receiver of it, even if sometimes it puts everyone - including the one we love - in harms way. 
Picking up the towel and wrapping it around myself I sat down on the edge of the bed to feed Shay while Tyran sat on the floor in-front of me, reaching up to gently tickle his new brother's back. As the pounding of my heart slowed I realized it was me who had been foolish. Next time I would bring the sleeping baby into the bathroom. Hiding him was the idea of a nervous sleep deprived mom. Bringing him and allowing Tyran to sit beside him would be better. I looked at Tyran's intensely love filled face as he continued to trace circles on his baby brother's back and thanked the universe for the problem of too much love.  

Tyran is twenty today and I woke up this morning with that memory, that face filled with purpose and pride, on my mind.


This face.



This face has always shone with passion and intense emotions. Every time this face met a new baby brother or a new baby cousin, it glowed with pride, adoration, and protectiveness. If you told this face that it was wrong about its family being the best family, well, you would see this face transform into a different kind of passion and intensity. You were in trouble!

This face turned twenty today. And this face still shines with passion and intense emotions. It sparkles when cousins-- aka "minions"-- come running toward it. It engages with passion when brothers show up and share new music. It fills a room with joy when cousins throw a leg over the couch and laugh at its antics, its living room performances.

This face, even at twenty, will still turn passionately dangerous if you threaten his beliefs and loved ones. But it's learned over the years not to then threaten you; your beliefs or loved ones.

This face lives too far away from me, which is good -- for now. Because if it was any closer I wouldn't be able to let it go a moment without me smothering (and embarrassing!) it. Right now this face shines with love most of the time for me, and I don't want to make the mistake of tipping it into frustration. I would make that mistake. I know this face, and I know me!

This face was born knowing exactly who it is and what it wants to do. It has spent twenty years passionately proving to itself that it is who it says it is. For the most part, this face is right.



Thanks to the insistence of this face, our family has been celebrated as strong, connected, and better than anything else in the world! And, well, look at that face!!! Of course we believe it!!!

Happy twentieth birthday to my passionate son! 
I love you so freaking much, Tyran!!!

I miss your face every single hour of every single day!!!

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





Friday, April 22, 2016

Autism Answer: Earth Day


 
Me hanging out behind our home.

I've always been attracted to nature. 

I've always desired deeply to work and learn with her, rather than control or ignore her. And with that deep desire I've made choices. 

Choices that change as I discover new truths or observe hidden relationships to my choices. 

But I do not have (much) guilt over the choices I made that hurt nature when I was unaware, because I know I was most often willing and interested in becoming aware. I know I was most often eager to learn and make changes. 

Often, but not always.

It's the choices I made against nature when I knew better, or was able to know better but chose to look away, that I feel guilt over.

The choices I made to not seem "weird" and, even more often, for convenience. The times I turned away from learning or knowing in order to keep doing things the seemingly easy way. Or to not stand out as a nutty tree hugger or unusual (which, for too many, means possibly unfit) mom. Those choices. 

To me "nature" isn't just outside, she isn't just the earth and her gardens. She's the natural inclination and needs of everything and everyone organic. She's freedom and life.

I try my best to be consistent in my respect and love of her, but I make mistakes. 

I'm happy to notice, however, that the more confident I get, the more willing I am to be authentically me no matter how nutty I may seem, the less mistakes I make out of convenience or fear! Now, when I make a mistake, it's mostly nature herself reminding me who I am.

This Earth Day let's all take a moment to change one habit, examine and realize one mistake we're making that hurts nature. Our own nature, our spouses nature, our child's nature, Mother Nature. If we all change one habit, admit to and tell others about one mistake, we can't help but change the world in a beautiful way! 

I believe it really is that simple, friends.
I believe we really are that powerful!

Happy Earth Day!!!!


"I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do." ~Edward Hale

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

Laying under my favorite tree with my hemp purse and a perfect book.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Autism Answer: Fresh Ideas From Familiar Soil


Down the street from our home.

"Spring brings us new growth. That growth, though, comes from soil rich in old memories and nutrients. Spring, then, can be seen as a time to grow fresh ideas from familiar ground." ~Me

Spring carries with it a delicious newness in the air, an energy and smell that almost begs for fresh ideas! 

But those ideas, fresh and new and colorful as they are, are grown from years worth of old ideas, composted and broken down as fertilizer for growth. 

We flourish thanks to all the seasons of our lives, friends! Our seeding times, our blossoming times, our harvesting times, our composting and creating comfort for others times. Each season brings gifts to the wholeness of us. I suggest we not stay too long and get lost in any one season; be sure to value and seek them all! 

We flourish with help from the diverse vitamins and minerals of our lives. Our missteps, our accomplishments, our laughter, our tears. These are all part of our nutrient rich soil! Seeking relationships that bring us sunshine and the environments that encourage growth, for us and our loved ones, is our privileged as living beings. 

Spring has sprung in strange unpredictable ways in many parts of the world this year. Snow, rain, and sunshine are having a strange kind of fun with us. That's okay! Our usual timetable has been disrupted which means old expectations may need to be set aside so we are available to take joy in the new, possibly unnamed and never-before-seen, gifts that grow. We parents, siblings, friends, and folks with autism know deeply the value of that! Setting aside expectations of what has been in order to see what is and what can be.  

Yes, we are correct in exploring how we got here and why. What habits do we have that might be contributing to the strangeness of seasons? As with our children, what expectations do we have that need to be revisited and revised? What conveniences are we relying on that hurt our relationships and environment, making life quickly less convenient? Let's explore, but not to blame or feel guilt. Let's discover and weed out the culprits, respecting them for what they've done for us all the while. We are healthier and happier when we shift rather than shove.

Flourishing of a consistent nature happens when we're open to shifts in seasons and expectations without feeling a need to throw away tradition altogether. Flourishing happens when we allow fresh ideas to spring from familiar soil. 

Happy flourishing, friends! 

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

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Autism Answer: Be The Parent You Feel Good Being

 
Me & my boys!

When my sons were little I parented a little bit "differently" and found myself often in opposition to, well, pretty much everyone!

I just really, really, really believed in freedom first, politeness and listening to grown ups second. 

But I could never know if I was right. I could never know if I was doing my sons a service or a disservice, I could only know that I was doing parenting the way my heart and soul believed in and loved it. 

I also knew that I had watched my own mom parent in opposition to almost everyone, with passion, love, patience and conviction. I watched her believe in raising the bar for what our futures could be. And I watched my entire family-- mom and all eight of us kids--become adults who defy our labels. We are the "outliers" where statistics are concerned. We are free to be different and do well, without falling into the too often unfortunate categories assigned to our kinds. We are happy and successful and supportive. 

So in parenting my own sons I kept an open mind and open dialogue with other parents and educators, while checking in most often with myself. The greatest example I had was my mom. Not in the specific things she did as much as in the way she followed her instincts and beliefs. 

Now when I chat with my mostly adult sons, I know that they have grown into amazing young men. Maybe it's because in allowing them freedom first, I did something right. But probably it's because they themselves are awesome people who were parented and surrounded by folks who love life and are truly happy with who they themselves are. 

So when I'm asked to give parenting advice I'm most confident about this: Be the parent you love and believe in being. You're going to be parenting for a long time. Make sure you like who you are while you do it!

And maybe, like me, one day one of your children will write a song about it!

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



*Author's Note: I invite you to purchase a copy of my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, where I share with you the journey of discovering my confident, parenting self! xoxo

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Autism Answer: Walk A Mile In My Shoes and Tell A Good Story


Walk a mile in their shoes, but be sure to tell a good story.
 
One of the things that's made it easy for me to be non-judgmental as I've grown older is the vast number of diverse experiences I've had. Over and over and over I've heard myself think: "Ooooohhhhh.... now I understand! Now I get it. I didn't realize!" This had me quickly asking others, often and honestly: "Please, tell me how it is. I want to understand."

I've always actively sought out stories that were diverse and different from me. At first I focused on diverse cultures and characters within the books and films, as I grew older I grew more purposeful about discovering diversity and authenticity also in the creators of stories. Lately I've been sure to also read well written books by people I don't agree with. I'll admit, it can be a bit frustrating but it's also entirely mind opening! 

As my years and experiences grow deeper and wider I know that I can only fully understand by doing, I can only almost understand by listening or reading, and I can never understand by assuming.

I used to think that I knew these things because I read a lot. I seriously, truthfully, honestly thought that if everyone chose to read a lot of novels, they too would know to be kinder and more understanding. There is some truth in this, according to science. But there is also a big huge misunderstanding on my part. 

Because trying on diversity teaches us in tandem with the stories we tell ourselves while we learn. 

I think it's important to continuously remember this. Let's try on new hats, travel to new places, learn new skills, chat with people we are uncomfortable chatting with (in a safe environment) all while being purposeful about the way we frame, hear, and understand those stories. 

For example:
If we all got to be temporarily autistic, for about a year, I believe we would grow to understand our world differently. There are some who would understand the challenges of our loved ones in surprising ways and would grow kinder, more willing to help without judgment and without force. There are some who might think it was too hard and focus instead on fighting for some kind of cure. Still some might, sadly, think that being autistic was so horrible it made them angry and dangerous, and so autism must make everyone dangerous. 


If we all got to be cops, for at minimum a year, I believe we would grow to understand things differently. There are those who would understand the police officer's desire to help, to be an active part of the community, to step in when others are unable or in danger. There are some who would start to see that inherent prejudice is real and more immediately dangerous in the hands of some than others. Sadly, there are also those who would choose to believe that prejudice is justified. 

If we all got to be obese or homeless or rich, we'd understand things differently. If we all worked as CEOs or actors or construction workers, we'd all understand things differently. If we all got to be a minority, the opposite sex, transgender, or seven feet tall, we'd understand things differently. The opportunities for understanding each other in new and beautiful and important ways that bring us together and focus us on the value of our differences and deeply true sameness's would be never ending! 

But so would the opportunities to tell ourselves stories of cruelty, gather proof of reasons to hate, or choose to feel fear. 

The stories we tell ourselves while we are learning from our experiences are powerful. We don't all tell ourselves the same stories while we have the same experiences. So being autistic would teach us something, but what we chose to learn would depend on how we chose to think about it. Being obese would teach us something, but it wouldn't teach us all the same things. Being rich would teach us something, but it wouldn't teach us all the same things. It would depend on the stories we chose to believe and the stories we chose to tell ourselves.

This story, though, this one right here is of great value in my view: To try on the roles we fear or find distasteful, rather than to judge them, is a gorgeous and incredibly valuable idea. 

Read books, watch movies, meet people, try new things, travel to places where you don't fit in, learn and listen and consider and branch out! But remember to do so with intention, with a desire to discover answers that are kind. Actions that move the majority of our population forward, together. 

Intentional storytelling isn't lying or naive, friends. 

It's a valuable way to make our story work, to create characters with agency and humanity, to make history on purpose. 

It's my favorite way to tell the truth and encourage it to grow truer!

You can walk a mile in my shoes but you'll get more joy out of the journey if you tell a good story. 

It's up to you. Either way, you walked a mile. 

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