Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Autism Answer: Missing Gracefully And Choosing Action In The New Year!

Growing older and having more years under our belt is largely about gaining new experiences and opening our minds to new perspectives and possibilities. The more we live the more opportunities we have to hear a different view, feel eye opening changes in our own bodies, experience cultures rather than make assumptions about them, and see possibilities hidden in every moment.

As we grow and gain, we are offered the blessing of wisdom and the gift of knowing ourselves and our value--rather than desperately trying to prove it, as happens in youth.

But growing is also very much about letting go; losing. As we grow larger in years we leave behind young bodies that can bounce back from abuse easily, small children who crave our snuggles and story reading, the bliss of bike riding or rollerskating for no reason but freedom, and with no appointments but suppertime.

Growing older means missing not-so-concrete things like who we were before we decided who we were going to be, while also missing stuff like hippies, Drive-in-Theaters, and video stores. 

As we grow older I believe it's important to do our missing gracefully. Letting go of our youth, our children's youth, the toys and cultures we grew-up with, shouldn't be about sadness or loss so much as a continuously nourishing memory.

We will miss our children's tiny hands in our own. And we'll miss our ability to dance all night. And we'll miss the way flying in an airplane used to be an experience that amazed and impressed. That's part of growing older, and if we don't do it gracefully we hold ourselves and others back.

This new year I plan to miss things gracefully! My sons will go and grow, and I will happily allow it. 

The healthiest way--I find--to let go, is to choose action. It's hard to miss gracefully when we don't choose an action in response. So I will also go and grow!! While my sons choose action, while they find ways to need me and others less, I will find ways to need them and others less. What better way could there be to example independence than to seek it?

Each new year (each new moment, truthfully. But we're playing the New Year game!) offers new things to miss, and new actions to take.

Regardless of the specifics, I wish you the comfort of missing gracefully, and the thrill of choosing action in the New Year!!

Happy New Year my supportive, positive, action oriented friends!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers

Happy New Year!
From my family to yours!!!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Autism Answer: Another Fun Addition To My Life "Reel"

The young mom with three young kids sitting behind us on the Greyhound bus was really struggling. Her four year old son, the middle in age, was quite intense and defiant. He reminded me a lot of my two oldest boys when they were small!

At each stop people would try to switch seats, picking ones farther from this group of noisy troublemakers that once-upon-a-time could have (sort of) been my own.

Early on in the trip I chose a seat right in front of her and suggested my sons sit kitty-corner. For the next thirteen hours her kids climbed on me, sang with me, played super hero finger games with me, looked for magic in the scenery with me, and more!

Did it occur to me that others on the bus might notice my helpful, accepting attitude and shift their own? A little.

Did I hope the exhausted and trying to parent more for the sake of bus-mates than her children mom would get a break and regroup? Stop spanking and start playing? Kind of.

Did I imagine that the children and their mom would begin to have a fond memory of their Christmas Greyhound journey to California rather than an ugly, uncomfortable, and confusing trip? You bet.

Did I do it for any of these reasons? Nope.

I played, sang, sacrificed sleep and work, even some quality time with my own kids, because I wanted to enjoy my Greyhound Christmas journey to California. That wasn't very likely to be easy if I spent it judging, feeling sorry for, or attempting to drown out the struggling young family. We were in each others world, so I chose to play an active, helpful role.

For the last six hours of our trip to California, they were on a different bus than ours. At first I was relieved, then I was missing them. Today--five days after our Greyhound bus adventure-- I have a fond memory of my playful role, and of my boys watching the kids love me. Our Greyhound California journey was a fun success!

We're all here together, picking our roles. 

I think I've accumulated a fabulous "reel" of pretty sweet roles!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Autism Answer: Sometimes "Polite" Is Overrated

My youngest son sat in a seat on the crowded Greyhound bus. We are traveling as a group of three, two of us were able to find seats together while he sat alone with a stranger. I kept asking if he wanted to sit with his brother. He stared at me, not speaking. 

As we traveled I asked if he was hungry, he gave an almost invisible shake of his head. I asked if he needed anything, he looked at me and shrugged.

Everyone stared and I could hear the odd whisper, he should at least answer, they claimed. Kids these days, they mumbled.

I know more than they do. He is uncomfortable in crowds. Nervous about the trip. Handling things well. He sat quietly the whole way, barely saying a word.


We were waiting for our next bus, a transfer in Dallas, TX, when a gentleman asked for our attention and admitted he was humbling himself before the crowd. He needed eighteen dollars to be able to make it home for Christmas. He understood we were all struggling, but could we spare some change? A dollar?

As I reached for my dollar I could spare, my youngest son pulled out the money he'd been saving for weeks. Money for snacks on the trip, and gifts for his brothers when we reach California.

Quietly he gave the gentleman twenty dollars. He got him home for Christmas.

One of the whispering women from the previous bus saw the sneaky transaction and came over to hug him. She said to me,"You are raising a wonderful son, mamma. He was so quiet on the other bus, I didn't know..."

We wished each other a very Merry Christmas and boarded our separate buses.

Sometimes "polite" is overrated.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Merry Christmas!!
Autism Answers

Friday, December 20, 2013

Autism Answer: Inspiration Porn~A Different Way

My husband and I often get interesting reactions, just because we're together and in love. 

Sometimes we're glared at, or ignored when it's our turn at the check-out counter, or charged more for a tire than the person before us.

And sometimes we're told that we are inspiring, and amazing, and impressive! I used to appreciate these compliments when they were about our age difference (he's twenty-three years older than me) but would be quite bothered--maybe even a little bit knee-jerk reaction offended--when they were about our skin color difference.

My own reaction was telling: I did find our age difference worthy of inspiring, but never really considered our color difference at all interesting. 

My own prejudiced became clear: I thought our age difference was inspiring! And my husband's prediction (which I had often argued with him about!) proves correct; color difference bothers/inspires people. 

But now I see that to be offended is almost always and forever the wrong choice. If we inspire and amaze you... great!! Just because it shouldn't be amazing that we're together, doesn't mean I ought to be offended.

I should--and do!!--however react with honest surprise, and suggest that falling in love should have nothing to do with age, race, financial stability, religion, sex, or ability. It should have everything to do with who you love being with, and who helps bring out the best in you.

My husband loves all of our children with all of his heart, adores me and my quirks, and has helped me grow into a me that I love being. He also has really sexy arms!!!

Here's another truth that should be considered. It is harder for my husband and I when we go out together than it is for many couples. Yet, we go out. We are treated with stares of interest, distaste, or inspiration... but stares none-the-less. So... there is some truth to the fact that we are doing something ordinary, but that because it's more difficult for us it is slightly less ordinary. And we are sometimes tempted to quit. To stay home. To avoid confrontations and judgments; offered to us and our children. 

I choose to accept a little responsibility to not only allow a little inspiration to come our way, but to also go out even though it's challenging. Otherwise it will more likely remain challenging for future generations. 

If you inspire people, but feel it's for the wrong reasons, tell them!! But I suggest not being offended, because then you miss out on a most lovely opportunity to feel complimented, and to share a truth without judgments. 

A truth they might not want to hear, they might not be ready to hear, or...

They just might be.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers

A picture of me and my hubby.
Aren't we inspiring?!

Author's Note: Inspiration porn is an image of a person with a disability doing something completely ordinary – like playing, or talking, or running, or winning, or hitting a tennis ball – carrying a caption that suggests “your excuse is invalid” or “before you quit, try”. The world of disability has many intelligent and emotional thoughts on what these images and messages are actually conveying, and I encourage you to listen to their views. Here I only share my own experience which is different, but similar. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Autism Answer: Death Dreams and Desperation of a Young Mom

My sons are all grown or almost grown. Parenting young adult and teenage children has similarities to being the parent of very young ones. The overlaying fears, exhaustion, and all encompassing importance of the "parent" role is similar, though (thankfully!) less like a black hole. When you have teenagers, you've done some parenting growing-up yourself, and have the tools to get through it with most of your sanity intact. Meanwhile the memories of parenting small, needy children come back, almost like a dream. Distant enough to have become close to a novelty remembrance, a made-up representation of the realty it was. Almost.

When I was a young mom--and by young I mean new, though I was also young in years--I was exhausted, hormonally challenged, nutritionally zapped, desperate to prove myself and certain I was faking it and failing.

As a young mom I lived forever in an emotional state. I loved my itty bitty darlings so much, their adorableness and attempts at learning moved me to tears, claps, goofy jigs, and phone calls of cute sharing with family constantly. They also felt inseparable from myself. If my sons failed, I failed. And so sometimes I yelled or pushed too hard--figuratively and literally--in order to prove my own worth. To my family, strangers, teachers, and myself.

A young mom is a bit of a fool, and I was no exception!

But she is exhausted and gets no escape. In the few hours she sleeps, she dreams of failure. She experiences dream fears of losing children, trying to save them from impossible dangers and always failing, forever late to pick them up from school.... She is forever trying and failing and when she doesn't fail she finds ways to prove that it was a fluke, ways to prove to herself that even her successes are not her own.

During awake hours young moms sometimes daydream of death. Their own mostly, but even sometimes their children's. Usually the imagining is an accidental death. A rogue bullet, a snake bite, or a romantic disease that gives her time to say impressive goodbyes. Always they are a daydream of justified giving up. A way to quit before her parenting faults are made clear and unmistakable. 

These scary, foggy years were few for me. Perhaps five years? But they were intense and they shaped me. I never chose death, and I never gave up; justifiably or not. Instead I consistently chose the clapping, singing, goofy jigging, and joyous emotions. My mom highlighted them for me. So did my sister. So did my eventual husband and my late-to-the-party but trying dad. And sometimes, only when I really needed to know, my mom would tell me that she gets it. She would say she's been there. She would promise it gets better. Only mom could whisper these promises because in truth, she had been there. And even though I didn't exactly believe her at the time, I also didn't resent her for trying and so I listened.

I'm not saying all young moms feel like I did, but many do. And though I don't think there is much difference between parenting typical children and parenting special needs children, there is a difference that means everything. 

For special needs parents the exhaustion, hormonal issues, nutrition struggle, fears of failure... they last. They last longer. And these times are shaping moms, dads, and children. Entire families.

So I suggest supporting and helping. In the ways they are willing to accept help. You can't make them see that they are not failing, that they are beautiful and filled with great ideas and surprisingly insightful and creative solutions, but you can show them so often and so loud that the odds are some of it will get in. Some of it will be believed and heard.

This is me telling you. You are amazing and beautiful. You are doing so much right! Your children are watching you and learning from you, so show them what it looks like to feel your own worth and celebrate your skills!

We are all young at something, and we are all struggling to find our stability. Trust that you will find it, and keep smiling, loving, and laughing. That is your greatest tool and when you are stable, it will be your loudest memory. 

Your family's as well!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers

Me with three of my four sons during my desperate years.
You'll notice I was having fun.
It's important to remember to mostly have fun!
Even when you're struggling!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Autism Answer: Santa, Belief, Response!

When my siblings and I were kids, my mom did the whole "Santa" thing with an actress' flair!! We knew he was paying attention to us! We adored meeting him and reminding him how good we were! We heard his bells on Christmas eve and saw Rudolph's shiny red nose in the sky! We rushed to bed early after leaving cookies and carrots and soy milk!! And the mornings were deliciously magic! Emptying our stalkings and feeling Santa's presence in the gifts and bite marked cookies! 

For me, the idea of Santa was wonderful and exciting. It allowed magic to exist in my world and I ate it up like candy canes!! I loved believing so much in fact, that the reason I know for sure that repressed memories are a real thing is that I did it to myself after accidentally discovering that Santa was actually my mom. I was so sad about it that I pushed the information to a place in my brain where it hid for a few years, making me once again a true believer! Of course, repressed memories don't disappear, they hide. So once I re-learned the Santa truth, it all came flooding back. By this time, though, I was old enough to just enjoy playing Santa for my little brothers. 

Interestingly, though, my little sister enjoyed the Santa magic only for a few years. As she got older she became increasingly afraid and creeped out by the idea of him. My mom is an intuitive woman, and she tried to keep the happy wonder alive, but my sister just wouldn't be convinced that a man sneaking in our home after judging us as good or bad could possibly be something to celebrate. Of course, as a self-centered child, I just assumed her fear came from the fact that she wasn't nearly as "good" as me! tee hee!

My point is, mom shared the same Santa tales and magic with both me and my sister equally. We listened to the stories together, saw my moms eyes light up as we sang Christmas carols together, woke up to find stalkings filled with new socks and chocolate together. Yet our experience of Santa was very much different.

My mom didn't allow my sister to be afraid of Santa for long at all. She told her the truth. The very same truth that broke my heart and stole the Christmas magic from me. 

So remember, no matter what you do or how you do it, some people will adore and others abhor, but that's okay because as long as YOU adore what you are doing, and as long as you are willing to do it different when you don't adore it anymore, then what you are doing is perfectly right and wonderful!!

Sometimes we're giving magic to our kids, and sometimes we're taking it away. But always we are loving them and doing what feels best to us in that moment. 

Merry Christmas and happy Holiday Season everyone!!!!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

My sister and I one Christmas morning!

*Author's note: I chose the title based on a fabulous truth I learned at The Option Institute... they teach a new way of reacting, suggesting that all of our personal assumptions and judgement come from beliefs. They suggest it works like this, "stimulus, belief, response" and it's brilliant! We see or hear something (stimulus), we have a deep down belief, and then we respond. And since we are in control of our own beliefs, we are in control of our response (emotional and more) to stimulus!! Check them out!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Autism Answer: When Shay's Social Struggle is not a Struggle!

Last night I took my two youngest boys to our small town homecoming bonfire, located behind the local high school. Forgetting my book purposefully at home I just sat back and watched my boys hang out with their friends.

Shay (my fifteen year old) was looking for his new girlfriend, having promised to meet her there. I saw a group of extremely cute "popular girls" approach him, and play the giggling and overly loud flirt game. Shay gave them a little attention but I could see him looking around for his date. A moment later I saw Shay's face light up as he waved to a fairly large group of "fringe girls". They were not so well dressed, many of them chubby. They were jumping up and down with excitement and hollering Shay's name with gusto. All the kids had that out-at-night-with-my-school-friends energy. Shay said a brief but polite good-bye to the popular girls and sauntered off wearing an air of cool to meet the friends he was wanting to hang out with.

No judgments, he didn't snub the popular ladies, he just wasn't there to make the right friends. He was there to hang out with his friends. 

Sometimes the social challenges that Shay still struggles with can be really hard for him. He often feels confused,  hurt, and misunderstood. He has a habit of imagining insults that aren't even there, and then insulting in return.

And sometimes it just means he sees certain things clearly. Like picking friends that he likes, not the ones that most people like.

Sometimes, Shay's social struggle is not a struggle, and can be quite beautiful!

Those are the times I like to celebrate and encourage. Those are the times I like to learn from. 

Shay hanging with a couple of his lady friends!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Autism Answer: Vaccines and Autism: A (Valid) Distraction

In the autism community there is a battle that rages. Well, there are a few, but none seem to be as emotionally charged as the vaccine wars. Are vaccines linked to autism? Are they the cause? Are they a trigger? Are they absolutely unrelated and a convenient scapegoat for those desperate for answers?

Well, I don’t know. What I do know is that the fighting has become a pretty useful distraction for those interested in taking away our right to choose and to educate ourselves freely.

It is not wacky or conspiracy conjuring to imagine why and how Big Pharma and even the CDC would want us forced into an intense immunization schedule. The amazing advances in medicine cost money, the millions of people employed in a system that saves lives costs money, there is the fear of polio, measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis, the habit of Band-aiding problems as they arise rather than admit to mistakes,  the money that can be made while medicating said problems, I get it. But that doesn’t make it okay.

Why are parents who dare to ask vaccination questions so openly painted as bad parents? Often accused of risking the death of their child for fears of disability, chronic health issues and more? Should parents not be applauded when they question what is being forced into their little ones? It's not (usually) a fear of autism or other specific disability that has them questioning the shot schedule and ingredients, but rather a natural protective parenting instinct. Almost always they are asking for safe vaccines, not no vaccines.

And why are parents who wait patiently in waiting rooms in order to vaccinate their loved ones often treated as uneducated sheep, following the herd? Though pro-vaccination is the bigger camp, it is still true that parents who believe in keeping their children safe by following the recommended vaccine schedule often find themselves looked down upon by moms and dads who feel "better than" or "smarter than" for having done all kinds of research, digging deep into science and studies, to come to a different conclusion. 

Like most great distractions, the links between immunizations, inflammation, immune disorders, seizures, autism etc. need to be explored; with honesty and integrity. However, the question of whether a body of others—government for example—has the right to tell you that you must stick lab baked viruses, preservatives and human tissue (along with its DNA) into your child, or yourself, is where the conversations narrative should be centered.

*An Honest Aside: I am neither for nor against vaccinations. I believe that both choices carry risks. I am for safe vaccines even if they are more expensive. I am for freedom and transparency. Lofty goals? Why yes!

When my mom, who is an international brain expert specializing in autism, was interviewed on a morning show in Uganda, the host nearly fell out of his chair after she revealed that the kind hearted volunteers he had mentioned were injecting viruses in the children. He was under the impression that it was a drug. Had he been lied to? Had he just misunderstood?

Again, I don’t know. But I’ll bet it wasn’t explained clearly because people who love children, and love helping, felt a need to save the little darlings. The end justifies the means.

I am of the opinion that we should not be lied to, and that we should have the freedom to make our own choices, even if those choices are perceived by others as dangerous. Yes, even if your choice may put me in danger. I like laws and rules, but a bare minimum. Ask my boys!

My Vaccination Story: When I was a young mom, taking my boys for their shots felt wonderful and very "mom" like. I didn’t even wonder what was in the vaccine. I had always believed that introducing a bit of virus to our immune system so it could study the enemy seemed brilliant and all natural, which was enough for me. I truly just loved playing the part of responsible mom. No part of me feels guilt or shame for having vaccinated my boys then. I chose it with pride!

When my youngest son was born they wanted to vaccinate him straight out of the womb. I didn’t like it, but chose to ignored the little nagging I felt. I’m not comfortable with confrontation and it was easy to assume they knew what they were doing. My son soon began to avoid eye contact, was sensory challenged, vomited constantly, had seizures, and still has a struggling immune system. I never wondered about the vaccine connection out loud, after all he had been moments old when he received the shots so there was no reason to assume things would have been different without them. However, the thought bounced around my brain a bit.

But that’s not the climatic (to me) event in my vaccine story. It was a few years later, when I was told that my boys had to get a shot for chickenpox if I wanted them to continue in school. Everything in me screamed no. Chickenpox? Most of us have been through it and our bodies have become so much stronger for it. And the intermittent exposure we adults have to kids with the virus acts as a natural booster, protecting many of us from shingles. How will we get our natural boosters if no one has chickenpox? Also, by this time I had grown-up enough to know better than to see these man-made concoctions as "all natural". This vaccine was new, and I was very uncomfortable. My gut turned and I didn’t feel right. However, I took my boys and did what I was told. That day it was I who avoided eye contact. With my children, with the nurses, with my family, I choked back tears and looked away for fear of seeing me in their eyes. It wasn’t so much about the varicella shot, in truth I knew nothing at all about it, or the potential benefits and dangers. It was because I felt trapped and afraid. It’s my "vaccination story" because I hadn’t been willing to risk dirty looks and confrontation, I didn’t feel educated enough to argue any points, I had been told that it had to be done or I would be reported to Family Services, and saying no because I was uncomfortable (or because I didn’t know enough to say yes comfortably) is frowned upon. This is a painful memory because I hadn’t stepped up and taken care of my kids my own way, but rather failed them by fearing the judgments of others.

So I ask that we not look down at people who remember a time when hand washing was considered ludicrous, when ‘night gasses’ were believed to cause malaria and mosquito nets were for loons, who remember when GMO’s were a potentially safe solution to the hunger problem, or when smoking Tobacco was being touted as safe by the CDC. Parents who have seen that just because smoking causes cancer in one person and not another, while still others get cancer that is completely unrelated to cigarettes at all, does not mean that smoking doesn’t cause cancer.  I ask that we not treat them as though they don’t have the right to ask questions, and consider all options, when it comes to what they do-- or do not-- consider healthy for their child.

And I beg that we continue to see how amazing we are as humans—having created vaccines, life -saving medications, cellular phones and espresso machines —and to remember that it’s only with freedom and a curious nature that we will continue to surprise ourselves and make advances of such import.

The vaccines and autism connection is a worthy distraction, but let’s please remember that it is a freedom to decide for ourselves that we need to keep our eye on!  The freedom to choose and learn the truth.

“If the people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”  -Thomas Jefferson  

"I'd rather live in a world that often allows the criminal to remain free, than one that often locks away the innocent. There are mistakes on every side, I'd rather live with the mistakes of freedom."~Tsara Shelton (me!)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Autism Answer: Social and Silly!

My family and friends think I'm silly. Heck, I think I'm silly! 

I'll walk in the Dollar Store singing out loud. I'll wear my jeans with the small hole in the crotch and trust no one to look. They're comfortable! 

Lucky for me I'm not struggling with sensory issues or extreme difficulty with focus. So I'm unchallenged enough to notice when my singing is inappropriate or my jeans are too obviously torn and drawing attention.

For my brother, Dar, that's just asking way too much. He's already handling inflammation, communication challenges, and sensory overload. He's already attempting to calm himself by stimming intensely, and trying to tidy up his unclear world by shoving everything within view off to the side or tucking it under something, and flicking the dangling string on a stranger's coat to see if it's attached or if it also needs tidying. 

He's not anti-social at all, and when he is able to get it across to us that he'd like some music to focus on as a way of compensating for all the other stimulation, he happily joins our family for fun! He LOVES when my boys invite friends over (much more than I do!) and will laugh and clap and jump and turn the music up! In those moments we often join him and are silly together! 

Autism doesn't somehow magically make a desire to connect with others disappear, it just makes it different. And more challenging. 

When I am my usual silly self, the world very often encourages me. Because I'm able to understand social cues and am unencumbered by consistent negative feedback to my social silliness. But when my autistic loved ones try to be social and silly, they are often met with very different reactions. And in the end, often pull away and stop trying. They are not anti-social or uninterested in trying. They are just less supported--worse, they are surrounded by a world that is hypocritical and confusing. A world that pretends to want original thought, independent young people, and authentic sense of self, while simultaneously stepping back from such difference with uncomfortable looks and handshakes un-offered. 

I'm thinking about this now because I just gave my brother some lunch and then walked away to check if I had any emails to answer. He picked up his plate of fish and rice, grabbed the sunflower oil and salt, and sat down on the floor behind me. Every now and then he flicks my ponytail. 

Anti-social?? My butt! 
Social and Silly?? You bet!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Autism Answer: The WingMaker: By Lynette Louise--A Review

A more complete version of my Review first appeared HERE on Special Needs Book Review, along with a lovely intro by Lorna d'Entremont. I suggest heading over to her site if you have a moment. There are many other books reviewed and authors interviewed there as well!!

Disclaimer: Lynette Louise is not only one of my favorite authors, she is also my mother. I suppose that makes me a little bit biased, but it also makes me a little bit of a harsher critic as well. After all, she’s my mom!!

The moment I first looked at this book, I felt joy. The pictures are a collage of playful moments, spiritual images, and skies filled with possibilities.

The pictures prepare you for the emotional and delightful story the reader is about to experience in The WingMaker.

Told in rhyme, the tale is of a young girl, Reazon, who is very disabled and finds herself almost drowning in desires and wishes. Watching her siblings play she years to join them and be a different kind of part of the family.

Her mom shows love by working tirelessly and without complaint. But alas, also without fun.

Enter the delightfully playful therapist, Happy-Ness, whose belief in miracles is strong enough to reveal them! Through pretend play, and a willingness to let go of fear and hold onto hope, skills are gained and life becomes fun!

Just as everyone has begun to live and see the power of play, and Happy-Ness pats herself on the back for another job well done, Reazon becomes deathly ill. Now it is Happy-Ness who finds herself drowning in wishes and doubt. As she questions and bemoans the point of it all, truths are revealed through the revisiting essence of Reazon. She offers both Happy-Ness—and this reader!—an ultimate answer and true reason for play, kindness, and the belief in possibilities above fear of failure.

An excerpt from The WingMaker: 

“It occurred to Reazon that this was Happy-Ness’ way:
over-doing it to keep going and creating through play.
Most of the lockers had just one set of feathers.
Like Mom’s and her sisters, a nurse, and two others.
Some just sat empty for adornment to wait,
waiting and waiting for wings from THE GATE.
That came when an action of kindness helped all:
The receiver, the giver, the audience involved."

When we meet the true WingMaker, we feel our own shoulders tingle with the knowledge that they can easily wear wings, if we are willing to do the work and believe.

The WingMaker is a book that I would recommend to any family with a loved one, neighbor, or friend who is disabled or challenged in some way. It is also an excellent and hopeful book for people dealing with grief or loss. When I asked my mom, Lynette Louise, why she wrote the story she explained, “This is based on the true story of a lovely girl and her family that I worked with years ago. After her death I needed to tell the story in order to let go. I needed to share what she’d taught me with others.”

This is a family book, perfect for adults and older children alike.  It is especially lovely for parents to read with their children.  My own teen sons (I have four) have all enjoyed it, and all for their own reasons. This book would also be an actively wonderful addition to any library, especially at a clinic or therapy center where people are dealing with extreme disabilities, mental health issues, or loss.

The WingMaker is the kind of book you want in your home. It’s a book that offers hope while encouraging comfortable discussions about acceptance and difference. 

To get your own copy (and a few for your friends!) of The WingMaker by Lynette Louise, follow THIS link to Amazon.com, or THIS link on Lynette's website. 

The WingMaker by Lynette Louise
aka The Brain Broad

Friday, December 6, 2013

Autism Answer: Our Autistic Society

Very many of my answers and thoughts and beliefs come from living surrounded by autism. So it didn't surprise me this morning when I said to my husband,"Ya, well.... Society's autistic."

Think about the symptoms we can see clearly. Should Gay people get married and adopt? Are taxes being used appropriately? Is that man over there using his connections unfairly or that girl over there flirting too heavily with co-workers? Should that teacher be allowed to pray in school? What kind of labeling do we need on our food to keep us safe? 

These symptoms are chased, fought for and against, screamed about in the media, lunchrooms, and at family gatherings. They are distractions. Much like the meltdowns, stims, and perseverations we sometimes hate, love, or fear in our autism world. They are symptoms, signs of autism. Signs of Society. 

Autism is not a stim or meltdown. It's a disorder. It's a brain that functions in a way that makes the person it lives in struggle with hurts and thoughts and challenges of often immense proportions. 

Most of us in Society seem to be playing the role of ABA therapist in an attempt to heal or "cure" it. And, as with autism, ABA for any length of time is worse than an emotional waste of energy. It's dangerous. 

Society doesn't need to be "cured" any more than autism does. But it needs help. It needs change. 

In many ways we're getting it right, society and autism. And that's a beautiful thing to focus on! But in so many ways we are chasing, fighting, and giving far too much attention to distractions. 

Rather than force a meltdown to stop, we must discover the reason for it. Rather than insist on quiet hands or stifle stims, we must discover why it calms and what our loved one needs calming from. And rather than making a person behave, we must ask ourselves why we consider "our"' way the right way to behave. These clues should never go ignored. They should be followed with curious intention and kindness, to discover the REASONS and answers within. 

Society could learn a lot if it would stop pointing fingers, choosing causes, or diagnosing and labeling chronically. 

Living with and accepting difference is often very hard. Knowing that there is no one "right" way means allowing people with drastically different views to blossom. This can be scary. 

But stifling difference, taking away freedom to be oneself, telling a person that they are innately "wrong" or "broken" because they challenge you to see differently is far scarier. 

And if we continue to busy ourselves only fighting to change education, or to tax the masses differently, or  to discover which politician's sex life is more risque... we are ignoring the cause. We are making what my mom calls "busy work" of human inventions like laws, rules, and assumptions of politeness. Beautiful as they are, we are then refusing to deal with the issue of self. The issues of humanity, nature, and The Universe. 

I have learned so much thanks to the challenge of living with difference. Autism has helped me discover my own ability to change, be flexible, understand others while standing my own ground. 

Society could choose to do the same!

But it'll need a lot of help and understanding from us. While we promise to learn from it. 
Because it's kind of autistic. 

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Autism Answer: Dear People, Your Experience is YOUR Experience

When you meet an adult who tells you that they are autistic, please try not to start comparing and judging them against your own experience of autism. Please don't think "but you're looking in my eyes so you can't be autistic" or "well, I'd better not touch you, you won't like it because you're autistic" or "Ya right! Barely!" or.. well, you get it.

Three of my brothers, and other adult autistics that I know, have learned the skills necessary to get jobs, drive cars, enjoy an interesting conversation etc. They have overcome obstacles that many of us can't imagine in order to learn these skills, and are very often doing them for our benefit. They hope to be accepted and they know we would prefer they make eye contact and talk to us about things we are interested in.

Just as your children will overcome surprising challenges in order to speak clearly or understand the importance of personal space. Please remember that when your child grows-up she too may look in peoples eyes and enjoy snuggles or drive a car. The fact that our loved ones work their butts off to gain these skills is amazing and should be celebrated! Be careful not to undermine hard work just because you weren't there when it happened. Or because you are afraid people are trying to take advantage of a system. Or because it doesn't match your own experience of autism.

In our small town my brother has a nickname. They call him "weird Rye". He likes the name, although it does perplex him. He's pretty sure that he isn't weird. In truth, he almost isn't! And I kinda like the nickname too. Because he used to be called names far worse, and I think weird is a compliment! It has taken him an amazing amount of work and years to become weird. And I'm very impressed and proud of him.

This town wasn't there when he was wrapping his lips around heaters or screaming "don't go on the poo highway!!!" every time my mom would drive onto an Interstate.

They see him now, seeming normal... but not. Great! No problem! Just please, allow him, and others like him, to celebrate how far they've come. Don't think "well, you let me touch you without flinching, so your not autistic. Just weird!" What you could choose to remember is that he may have wanted to flinch, he just didn't. That was for you.

He also may never have minded touch, or maybe now has healed to point of being comfortable with touch. Your experience of autism should be shared and supported. Just please don't accidentally take autism understanding a few steps back by assuming that your experience is the correct, true, or hardest experience.

Let's live this experience differently, but together!!

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Autism Answer: Walking On Eggshells... Don't!

Probably one of the most valuable lessons autism has taught me is the importance of not avoiding meltdowns. I don't suggest being mean or pushing buttons just for the sheer tornado effect, but avoiding them entirely can be equally as harmful. 

We are never doing nothing. We are never teaching nothing. 

If you feel a loved one is in meltdown mode and you bend over backwards to avoid it, you are teaching them that the behavior is okay, that they can't handle life if the people in their world don't play by the rules, and you're making it harder for them hang with other people who may not know or want to bend over backward. I definitely suggest being aware of your environment and sometimes avoiding meltdowns, especially since you can then congratulate them (or you, if you are the autistic one!) on getting through something meltdown free-- which will reinforce the belief that we CAN do it! But avoiding meltdowns too often makes everyone's world smaller and smaller. 

NOTE: If you are the one on the spectrum, avoiding meltdowns would be avoiding things that you know overwhelm. You should certainly do that when feeling especially vulnerable, but my brothers have come a long way by learning to handle, and then enjoy the things that used to bring about meltdowns. My youngest son as well!

Learning the importance of not avoiding meltdowns helped me believe in, and teach, my brothers and my sons. It has also helped me willingly speak my own mind and insist on being treated kindly when I otherwise would have "walked on eggshells". What's funny is I think I made this mistake most with my oldest son, who is not at all on the spectrum! But I had this belief that if his days were mostly happy and his memories full of only laughter (and unicorns and rainbows!) then he would become a man with a strong self-esteem. I forgot that he would also become a man who was afraid of being challenged, unsure if he could handle it. Because I certainly didn't give him much opportunity or example that I believed he could!

So don't consistently walk on eggshells! Instead believe that you or your child can learn to handle round shapes, calenders with the five in the wrong place, conversations in surround sound, someone accidentally messing with a carefully controlled line of cars... etc! 

These things don't have to be learned by tomorrow, there is no rush, but it can be done!

So don't be afraid to ask for it!! Always with kindness and always with an honest interest in encouraging rather than pushing. 

And always with a motivator that the challenged child/adult has decided is worth going after!

Hugs, smiles and love!
Autism Answers

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Autism Answer: Christmas Lesson In A Travel Mug

Last Christmas my youngest son (who was twelve at the time) and I were in the store grabbing groceries. I spotted a cute Santa Travel Mug and picked it up to show him. "It's cute isn't it!" I exclaimed. 

"You sure would like that, wouldn't you mom?" he asked. Right away I put the mug down and tried to take back my excitement. 

"No, no, it's not important," I was babbling. "Please, sweetie, don't spend your last couple of dollars on me. I know what you're thinking, and that's a good enough present. I know you love me enough to buy that mug, so let's leave it at that. Okay?" He nodded and we headed out of the store. 

You see, I wasn't even able to buy my children more than one small gift each. Our Christmas present is always spending time together and enjoying pumpkin pie. We can rarely afford gifts. 

Anyway, Christmas morning I saw that my son had placed a gift for me under the tree. I was pretty sure I could guess what it was. Opening that Santa Travel Mug was bittersweet. I wanted him to keep his money for himself, my sons ask for so little. But the card he'd written made the entire experience so delicious the bitter was forever forgotten. 

"From The Heart Counts Most" he'd written on the front of a school folder no longer being used for school. Inside he had drawn a tree, a star and these words,"Money is nothing. From the heart is everything. Merry Christmas mom. I love you."

He was right. I'd almost forgotten, and by begging him to keep his money for himself I had almost taught the wrong lesson. 

But he was smarter than me and offered that most beautiful Christmas morning reminder. 

As I sit here typing, I'm sipping coffee from my Santa Travel Mug. That's much more of a true gift than any snack or soda he may have bought himself with the few dollars he'd had in his pocket. 

I'm going to remember to accept gifts from now on. Whether they come in the form of snuggles, compliments, connections, smiles, or Travel Mugs under the tree. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

A Christmas Gift of Enormous Proportions!!