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)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Autism Answer: My Favorite Tip For Healthy, Happy Relationships

One of my favorite pieces of relationship advice:

Know the difference between annoying and a problem.

I have been happily married for sixteen years. My husband is about as different from me as humanly possible and yet we haven't, so far, had a fight - although debates and
Me and my hubby.
disagreements are as common as stubbed toes and itchy mosquito bites! I honestly believe one of the biggest reason we don't fight (aside from trusting my decision to want him by my side) is an ability to know the difference between something that is annoying and something that is a problem.

All of my relationships are made happier and more authentic because of this! As a mom, sister, daughter, and friend, I am able to breath deep and truly listen, or shrug off an almost angry feeling, when I recognize that my autistic brother or my socially anxious son or my protection oriented husband is merely doing something that I don't like or that I find annoying, and not actually creating a problem. Also, I have learned to recognize and deal with problems when they do arise (because, of course, they do) with confidence and a belief in finding an answer.

I'm certain everyone we have a relationship with will annoy us at times.  (Heck, I even annoy myself now and then!) Their beliefs or abilities may clash with our own; creating friction, a need for patience, and the necessary skill of listening with an open mind. I think I found the need to learn this because of my four brothers. My mom adopted them when I was a pre-teen and they were all, to varying degrees, cognitively challenged. They were annoying, but they were not problems. Despite the cruel energy the professionals and neighbors used to tried and say otherwise, arguing that my brothers were actually a problem, my mom insisted they were not.

My mom was right. (Although, I'll argue that the professionals and the neighbors were a problem!)

I'll admit that it took me a while to learn the difference, my mom (who is Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad, a renowned international mental health expert) exampled and explained it to me creatively and consistently my entire childhood. However, it wasn't until I thought of it simply in those words, "Know the difference between annoying and a problem," that I truly held onto and successfully incorporated the understanding into all of my relationships. It probably helps that the words materialized while my husband was, well, annoying me. Giggle!

This has shifted me in powerful ways! I am now far more eager to work on solving any true problem in my relationships because I've learned to recognize that there aren't many. Also, I have gained important skills of debate and discussion during the more annoying issues that pop up and can be fun to learn with. 

I have gotten rather good at making all of my relationships healthy thanks to this awareness of annoyances vs problems;  my relationships are healthy, but that doesn't mean they all last long. Some of them are rather short. Sometimes problems are bigger or more prevalent than annoyances, and that can mean saying goodbye. Walking away from a person or a group. But even though some relationships last longer or grow stronger than others, all of my relationships are honest, organic, and built on a foundation of allowing people to be who they are.

My oldest son is getting married next year and I intend, amidst a few other suggestions and relationship tips, to make this one stand out: "Know the difference between annoying and a problem."

I hope he doesn't think I'm being annoying. 
tee hee!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

My oldest son and his lovely wife-to-be!!
AUTHOR EDIT: Thanks to a thoughtful comment/question on my Facebook Page - asking for help knowing the difference between an annoyance and a problem - I thought I'd add my personal definition here.  
An annoyance would be when something makes life inconvenient or uncomfortable vs a problem which makes life dangerous (physically and/or emotionally) or stops people from expressing their own personal beliefs and personality.  
 I hope that helps! Feel free to play with the concept in order to come up with your own definition. Hugs!!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Autism Answer: The Best Source For Your Story Is You

I am happiest and most effective in everything I do when I trim my news time down to less than an hour a day. IMPORTANT: LESS than an hour a day. 

Local, global, sports, niche (autism, environment, race relations, etc.) news explored via trusted and solutions minded sources for LESS than an hour a day is my sweet spot. 

I feel aware, awake, and educated while I also feel happy, able, and action oriented. 

My suggestion, friends, is to find your sweet spot! Don't avoid the news entirely (good journalists - and activists - put their lives on the line to bring us truth) but also make it a rule to barely acknowledge the viral "news" (almost always click bait, propaganda, and lazy lies that are guaranteed to poke at your animal brain and make you share - this includes a whole host of overly simplified "feel good" stories that play irresponsibly with pity language at the expense of entire people and populations). 

Do your best to find a news source that brings you news highlighting solutions; ideally, highlighting already in action solutions while offering ideas for more. News sources that highlight solutions will still bring you the "bad" news, so don't worry about being fooled into complacency. In fact, they tend to fuel you into action by helping you know what works, explaining what doesn't and why, and giving you an understanding that you are not alone, and that you can make a difference.

Most importantly, though, spend more time with your own observations and loved ones that with those being brought to you by others. 

Our autism community is filled with tons and tons of issues we disagree on. Language, therapies, vaccines, and more. Yet, we are seekers of solutions that come from an intense place of love. When we spend more time seeking our solutions based on our observations, and some time seeking solutions based on the experiences and expertise out in the world, we tend to be happier and more effective. 

So, let's always do that! Learn from those out there doing the work of investigating and sharing what they know. Use it as a reference for YOU, you who are also doing the work and investigating. You are the best source for your story, your solutions, and your news.

Be a consistent, strong, and willing source for your story. 
The first and last source; every day. 

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Autism Answer: About Writing

What I love most about writing: 

Those moments when somehow, through struggle and a painful desire to do so, I discover a cadence and the words that say exactly what I'm trying to say.  When I write a sentence or a phrase that brings forth the specific feeling and meaning I'm trying to uncover.  It's like discovering a rare and perfect gem, one you imagined in a dream, on a never-ending length of beach. Except you didn't just discover it; because of your seeking, you are part of it's creation. What a fantastic and addictive feeling! 

Autism Answer: 

My mom is renowned international mental health expert Lynette Louise (aka The Brain Broad). Her journey and unique skills have grown organically from the soil of her unusual mind. As a little girl she was consistently misdiagnosed and considered a brilliant challenge to the grown ups in her world. As a woman she adopted and adored several cognitively challenged children; together they healed and progressed in creative yet consistently authentic to themselves ways. As a woman, she is a powerful passionate advocate and healer. Because I am her daughter, this should have all come pretty naturally and easily to me as well. Right? Well, nope! I pushed her strangeness away and then tried to understand it and then pushed it away again. Until I became a mom myself. It was with mother motivation that I found the ability to nurture what is already there while working my butt of to hone, reveal, and coax it until it shines. It was with writing that understanding filled me even more. It was writing and honing sentences and trimming ideas to their authentic selves that gave me the gift of openly exploring my mom's teachings, customizing them, and making them my very own. 

My biggest dream as a writer: 

Before I actually began writing in public I dreamed of having a shelf full of novels penned by me while I imagined enough of an audience to be considered by the world a real writer. Now, though, my biggest dream has shifted. I was surprised to discover, as I was writing for a possible audience, that being a writer in my own opinion is enough for me, so the audience no longer plays such a significant role in my dream as a writer; although, I adore and imagine them always. My biggest dream now is to have a shelf full of novels that I know are worthy of the stories they tell penned by me. Stories I can honestly say I gave my best service and ability to as a writer. 

Autism Answer:

I watched my mom teach my brothers skills while she nourished and explored their habits and interests. I watched as she celebrated successes that I could hardly see. Until, as a sister, I tried really hard. She didn't seem to be molding them into "normal" people but instead encouraging them to become who they were; while insisting and believing they could gain seemingly impossible-for-them skills along the way. She believed in them and they showed her they could stand on their own, confident in their true selves. As a mom and writer I learned to do this as well. My sons aren't successful only when they make the progression from school to job to living on their own to raising a family to retirement. Nope! They are successful when they are comfortable, confident, and creating their lives in a thoughtful way that matches who they are. Success is kindness and confidence in their true selves. My writing isn't meant to fit into a cookie cutter neighborhood of stories but rather to become what it was meant to be. Still, it is important for me to learn the skills necessary to encourage it stand on it's own. To be confident in it's true self.

What I wish I had known about writing starting out: 

Well, this is one of those questions, isn't it? I mean, I had been told most of the things I wish I knew, but without actually diving in and writing I couldn't quite know them for myself. I was told that writing is not only about the story and not only about the mechanics. But I had to dive into the world of writing myself to truly know the importance of punctuation and format in tandem with story and inspired thought. I was told that every writer writes for different reasons and in different ways, but I had to write for different reasons and in different ways myself before I knew the truth that my way was valid and right; so long as I was writing. Writers  told me the importance of completion; to write and write and write but to, also, come to the end. But it wasn't until I finally finished my first piece of writing (just before my 30th birthday!) that I understood the valuable writing-skill of tying it up and giving it away to the world. Of knowing you've done it; you've written that screenplay, that story, that novel. You're always going to be "writing" but now, also, you've "written". There are so many more things I sort of wish I knew before I began, but in truth I really couldn't know. Not until I knew from doing. Although there is one thing I wish I had believed before I began writing. One thing that might have made a difference for me is: Be friends with other artists. Ideally, with other writers. There is so much they can do for you! They can understand without it needing to be said. They can pull you out of that vulnerable, lonely place that writing often leads us to. They can suggest publications and tell you what to expect. And you can do all of that for them, giving you the ever-valuable feeling of knowing you are valuable. 

Autism Answer (What I Wish I Had Known): 

Well, this is the thing, isn't it? I just shared the truth that my mom told and showed and exampled for me so many things about parenting, autism, differences, and disability. Yet, until I began parenting, I couldn't quite know it for myself. I had been taught that people aren't only about their uniqueness or their ability to fit in; there is a necessary relationship between the two. Yet until I began parenting my own four sons with challenges and differences, until I was diving deep into the waters of wanting them to be who they are while wanting to show them how to be part of the world, I couldn't quite grasp the truth of it. It had been said to me that different parents can parent well in different ways and for different reasons. But I had to be a parent myself, I had to struggle through the need to do it "right" only to discover that I had to do it my way, and differently even day to day, situation to situation, child to child, with a consistency that remained always at the base of things, before I could grasp and know the validity of different parenting styles. I had been told and shown that one day I would have to let go. I had seen my mom let my brothers move away, gently pushing some of them and promising them they were ready. I was there, helping and scared, as they practiced their skills and grew their abilities in the outside world. I saw as mom loved them while they failed and while they succeeded. Yet it wasn't until my own sons grew older and I had to begin the process of letting go that I truly understood. You are never not parenting, but you have to believe that they are able to become who they were meant to be without you, too. Indeed, they must. It is the only way. And, as with writing, I think it is helpful to find a few friends who get it. Who have been there. Who can understand without words. I have those friends. They are few, but they are more than enough. They give me the gift of their understanding while asking me to do the same. 

Autism Answer: About Writing 

My brothers, my mother, my sons, my friends; autism has shown itself in a variety of ways in my life. So I have grown to see people in a variety of ways. Interestingly, it has helped me shed the desire for labels. The variety is just too much. Outliers are my world and though they do fit into groups in a lot of ways (which can be a wonderful way to be understood) they don't fit only into specific spaces and can't be filed under restrictive labels. In this way my writing had been blessed. I don't feel a need to be an autism blogger or a fiction writer or an opinion peddler. I write to explore and share my authentic self while I keep the audience in mind. My mom taught my brothers to be themselves while caring about the world. I ask my sons (and myself) to do the same. But because autism has made so much of that harder and even painful, I've opened myself up to see that caring about the world often means showing it how it can change. Giving it stories that will ask it to shift. 

I don't always do this well - as a sibling, parent, or writer - but I hope always to be brave enough to do it. 

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


RANDOM: My book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, is not one of those novels I dream of writing. Instead it's a collection of mostly true stories, a book that was an important step for me. I needed to have a book published to push myself past the fear of my first book being published. I'm now working on my first novel. With excitement and far less fear, largely because it isn't going to be my first book!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Autism Answer: Innovative and Tireless - Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad

FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD airs on The Autism Channel

"Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD is Doubly Board Certified in Neurofeedback and is working on her PhD in Psychology with a specialty in Psychophysiology at Saybrook University~her passion for teaching what she learns, and learning while she teaches, is unmatched." <---- I pulled that from the Brain and Body website.
Innovative and tireless, Lynette uncovers actionable answers that help every family, every time, and she shares her knowledge using every avenue available to us. Music, speaking, docu-series, comedy, books, and articles. 

I asked her yesterday how it is that she maintains such a consistent level of excellence and success. "By taking my own advice. By using my own methods." she easily replied.

Well. That's the answer of a true leader! 

I would have totally droned on and on about her experiences and gifts and unique brain and deep love of challenged children blah, blah, blah. I would have been telling truths, but I wouldn't have been answering the question. That's why Lynette (aka my mom!) is forever my mentor; a mentor that I work hard to share with the world. I might even use a little peer pressure to get you to listen to her. Sorry about that. I'm not quite as gifted a leader as she is. tee hee! 

You'd better visit her websites to learn more, you'd better watch some of her videos, or I'm not inviting you to my birthday party. <----- See what I mean? Peer pressure. Downright bullying, maybe. Giggle!

Okay, okay: I encourage you to visit her websites. I eagerly invite you to read her books, share her podcasts, watch her shows, listen to her inspirational comedy. She truly does give and give and give. Stories, ideas, understanding, inspirational revelations, and brain science. 

Her gifts are gorgeous!!! /
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Autism Answer: Running A Race

My nieces: Running a race!

When we're running a race one of our goals, almost always, is to win. 

When we want to win a race we can use our energy and time learning to improve our own speed. Or we can focus more on learning how to slow down the speed of our competitors. I suppose, if the most important goal is "win the race" then either choice, or a combination of both, is perfectly valid. 

My main goal has rarely been to "win the race" but rather to "enjoy the race and improve my time" planning, of course, to win the race. Because of this I have a tendency to learn from my fellow race runners while I cheer them on. I love that they know and are continuing to discover more and more ways to win the race! I love, too, that when I win the race I can share things I've learned with them! 

In life, I often win the race. But mostly because I feel like a winner when I improve on my time, try my best, have fun, and feel a sense of kinship with my fellow race-runners. When I can do all of this, all at once, I feel like a winner indeed!

However there are many who would see my life as a race not won. My bank account is often empty (or emptier than empty!) and my book sells slowly and my days are often spent not working hard but, rather, reading delightful books. 

I don't think people who see my life as a race not won are entirely wrong to see it that way. I've learned that there are plenty of people who would be terrifically unhappy in my life. So, to them, they're right. I would only ask folks to remember that my life is a race won well for me. That my happiness and self-love are largely due to my ability to run my life race well and to win, the way I see it, so often! 

They, of course, should not try to win my race but rather their own. And I am more than happy to watch and help them win their life race! Even while I sit on the sidelines sipping coffee.

For most of my life I assumed that everyone had similar race winning goals as me. To "enjoy the race and improve our time" while also hoping and planning and succeeding in winning some races. This, if you ask me, has made it easier for me to willingly run races that I am nearly incapable of winning - where I am handicapped in some way - because the goal is to try winning while enjoying the race and improving my time.

Yet, when I look outside of my own circle of family and friends I'm beginning to see that, perhaps, "win the race" is a more common first and foremost goal than I had believed. 


I can't quite put myself comfortably in that mindset. "Win the race" is one of my goals and a great way to check in on my personal progress, but my bigger focus remains "enjoy the race and improve my time". What I find freeing is the knowledge that because I can't comfortably imagine wanting most to "win the race" I can't possibly judge it. I have no idea what that's like.

Regardless though of whether we focus most on winning the race or enjoying the race or judging the race or signing other folks up for the race, I think it's important to be clear and comfortable about what winning the race looks like to us.

Being the first to cross a finish line is certainly a recognized and valuable type of winning. 

But, for me, running a race is about so much more than only winning it.

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

RANDOM ADDITION: The other day my husband, Declyn, and I were racing on our bikes. Another thing I learned about racing: I get winded really fast!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Autism Answer: Get Out Daily - Another November Challenge

Out to dinner. #GetOutDaily

November. It's got No Shave November (Grow Cancer Awareness) and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). 

Let's take that can-do spirit (or "don't do spirit" I suppose in the case of not shaving!) and add Get Out Daily Month

I've said it before (like, a lot!) and I'll say it again: The world can't get to know or grow comfortable with our diversity, and our diversity can't grow comfortable with the world, if we don't go out. 

Yes, it is sometimes challenging. Yes, it means going out in a world that has been largely built for and built by folks without disabilities or differences (and, often, folks who are trying hard to hide their disabilities or differences). But where is the motivation for anyone to change that if we stay home? 

I'm the first to admit that sometimes I just don't wanna do it. Sometimes I just wanna stay home with my mixed race relationship and my cheek squishing son and my brings her own containers self. Sometimes I don't want to see everyone stare or roll their eyes or whisper about us to each other. 

I'm the first to admit that sometimes I do stay home. 

But most of the time (now, not in my younger years) I go out. I do it for me, and I do it for you. I'm entirely aware that if you were going out more, and if so many of us were going out more, we wouldn't feel so isolated and alone. We wouldn't feel such a strong burden to represent well for our communities and families. 

So, yes, I admit that it's a bit of a challenge. But nothing compared to those who have gone
On our way to an auto parts junk yard. #GetOutDaily
out before us!! Nothing compared to the brave people who fought for civil rights in recent history. School was segregated for my husband until he was in eleventh grade. My husband spent his youth allowed to enter only the back door of restaurants because of the color of his skin. In his first several jobs he was expected to show up early and leave late while he made far less money than his white coworkers, who easily and often blamed him for their mistakes. This was in my husbands youth! Not some long ago time only in the movies, friends. 

Things change because we show up. Because we show ourselves and say what we need. Over and over and over and over. 

So, to those who are challenging themselves with No Shave November, I promise to cheer you on! Folks who are taking on NaNoWriMo, I salute you! (Also, my son and I are joining you!)

Let's also Get Out Daily! Post pictures, videos, status updates if you'd like. Use a #GetOutDaily hashtag (I just made that up, feel free to come up with something catchier!) or just talk about it with family and friends. 

Hold hands with your trans lover in the park, stim in the store with your autistic father, roll with your friend in her wheelchair to the post office, eat at your favorite restaurant with your mixed race family, take your Tourette's Syndrome self out for a spa day. Let's get out! Daily!

ADVANCED GET OUT DAILY SUGGESTION: Don't only go to the safe spaces where they know you. Adventure! Explore! 

If we do this, an added bonus for us will be that when people ask what we need, what would make things a little more accessible, we'll have better answers. It's hard to have specific suggestions when we are in avoidance mode. 

Good luck and have fun!
I'll see you out there!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

At the bowling ally! #GetOutDaily