Thursday, June 27, 2013

Autism Answer: Sibling Coffee & Conversation Success!

My youngest brother called asking if he could store an extra mattress here at our mom's house (where I stay) because there was no room for it in his apartment. I said no problem, and heard him coming up the driveway about an hour later. 

After putting the mattress away he asked if he could please clean something for me, because he wanted to show his appreciation. Again, I said no problem!! Or, maybe I sang it! tee hee!

Soon after, we sat for coffee and conversation. He said to me,"You know what I used to think? That other people were more successful than me because they were born with normal brains and have nicer cars and better jobs. But after what you told me, I know that's not true."

"What did I tell you?" I asked, knowing the millions of things my mom and I have told him over the years to help him see success differently, and wondering how he had finally understood it.

"You know, that us brothers have worked really hard and have come really far, and that we have been able to help other people by sharing our story. And about how success is working hard and being happy, not having a good car or a normal brain."

Not to shabby! "Well said," I admitted,"there's nothing wrong with going after money, smarts and cars that don't break down--they make life easier. But they aren't proof of success. Seeing your value and being willing to share your skills with others, being happy and working hard--what mom helped you guys learn to do so well!--is your proof of success."

We were happy and quiet for a minute. Then I couldn't help but add,"Of course, I sure am going to keep going after the stuff that makes it easy! I want to be able to travel and see everybody in the family without worrying about how to afford it!"

We raised our cups of coffee and agreed, successfully, on that point!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Me and Rye

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Autism Answer: The Gift of a Challenging Celebration!

Fireworks, food and fun! July 4th can be a true challenge for our ASD kids; special diets--surrounded by offerings of GMO and dairy filled treats!-- sound sensitivities, social fears and more. It can be tempting to stay home and watch America's independence celebrated on TV, and for some of us that is the right choice. But for most of us the challenges are wonderful, rarely offered learning opportunities! 

If we take advantage of the mostly celebratory, happy moods of strangers, the openness to chatting that happens when families and neighbors gather to remember and feel pride in our Country, we can teach our kids, ourselves and our neighbors a lot!

It's important to remember the real challenge for your autistic loved one and plan the outing with kindness, asking them to meet you half way. Suggestions like "If you stay with us without getting angry or hitting yourself for one hour, I will allow you to have a soda." and positioning yourself in the most likely to succeed area etc... can make the day a wonderful opportunity for success and fun!! For some of us success will be stepping out onto your balcony with blankets and an agreed upon deal to stay out there for twenty minutes, and for others it will be going to a block party with sparklers, fireworks and friends. Just because success doesn't always look the same, doesn't mean it isn't there or that it doesn't always look good!

Independence Day is about celebrating an idea. An idea that we all deserve freedom and equal rights. That we should be responsible for ourselves and have the freedom and rights to make choices and do what we feel is best. I can't imagine a better celebration challenge!!! 
I'm looking forward to a fabulous and fun challenging celebration this July 4th!! I bet you are too!

Hugs, smiles and love!!

My autistic brother, Dar
Enjoying a challenging celebration!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Autism Answer: Technology's Gift for Parenting Success!

*Authors Note: I originally published this on my Empower Network blog: Positioning for Parenting Success with Tsara Shelton, but the content really matches us here at Autism Answers as well, so I thought it would be fun to share!! Hugs!!

Technology is teaching us something.
My mom travels the globe as a mental health expert, working successfully with children and adults who suffer from all sorts of challenges. Autism, ADHD, depression, anorexia, Parkinson’s, Tourette’s, addiction, seizure disorders and so much more. Her tools of change are neurofeedback (biofeedback for the brain), intentional play and family dynamics teachings. Families are gifted enormously when she teaches intentional play and family dynamics. They learn to understand the physical pathways and patterns in their brains–and habits which are grown–based on feedback from friends, family and environment. They learn the power of intention and attitudinal shifts.
But with the addition of a impressive technology, neurofeedback, they learn all of that and it gets to be almost easy.
There are many reasons why. As a brainiac my mom (and millions of other experts and clinicians like her) understands and encourages the growth of neuronal pathways for a more balanced brain. This, in turn, helps a person feel focused and comfortable. There are more reasons as well. But the one I want to highlight here is no judgement.
The neurofeedback computer doesn’t judge, it only offers feedback in the form of beeps. For people with social challenges and other mental health issues, technology can become their greatest teacher. It doesn’t judge and isn’t impatient. It is consistent.
As we position for parenting success by make money from home with Empower Network, let’s remember that technology’s gift is in it’s consistency and non-judgmental attitude. And let’s remember to take advantage of that!
Post and market consistently! Don’t worry about judgement, and don’t force your own on others! Stay excited and curious. Keep a vision of yourself and your family being who you love being and making money with ease held clearly in your mind. Don’t hope for it, go for it!
A fabulous byproduct of this kind of thinking will be happiness and dreaming big and believing big in your home.
Now that’s positioning for all kinds of success!!
Thanks for the lovely lesson technology! Keep on consistently reminding us!!
Hugs, smiles and love!!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Autism Answer: Highlighting what we like

My friend and I were chatting about our kids--who are all teenagers now. We both have boys who absolutely love it when we play with their hair. We also each have one son who loves it when we play with their hair, but doesn't love to wash their hair.

Here's a snippet of our conversation: 

MY FRIEND: I don't want to tell him he's gross or make him feel self-conscious, but it is my job to teach him. I try to tell him in the nicest way, and I compliment his hair when it's clean. But man... it sure isn't working. We've been at this for years!

ME: Ya, I get it. With my kiddo I just started getting all excited to play with his hair every time it was clean. I started asking randomly,"Is your hair clean? Because I feel like playing with your hair and it feels so soft on my fingers when it's clean!" I just sort of ignore it when it's greasy unless he asks me. And then I only play with it for a few moments, with love but without excitement. It seems to be working. He washes his hair far more often now!

MY FRIEND: Huh. I'm going to try that.

ME: Cool. Want more coffee?

I'm no smarty-pants parenting expert, but in highlighting and celebrating the things I like when playing mom, I have noticed that my house is happier and my boys tend to respond quicker.

Also, I've noticed that my friend and I sip more coffee! Because I highlight it! Because I really like it!! tee hee!

Hugs, smiles and love!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Autism Answer: Together again

Last night my sister came over to my mom's house with her two oldest girls. I haven't seen my nieces in almost a year! We were ecstatic and silly and so, so happy!!

The house was filled with mismatched noises and mess. There were people everywhere and the sounds of cousins getting to know each other again, swapping cool points and showing off new haircuts, deepened voices and belief systems.

My thirty-two year old autistic brother and my fifteen year old autistic son enjoyed hours together in the pool. Far enough from the noise not to be attacked by it, and close enough to remain part of it.

I laughed with and hugged my sister with gusto. My mom and one of my sons hung out in the kitchen cooking. If a stranger were to look around they may wonder who belonged to whom, different colors and styles make you want to match one with another, but the obvious comfort level of everyone with everyone means we must all belong to each other. And we do!!

My oldest niece, who is very nearly thirteen, just kept on randomly exclaiming,"I love our family!" Without question she was voicing how every one of us was feeling.

Summer holidays are a magical time for us. They give us an opportunity to see that we truly do walk our talk. We truly are a family of acceptance, difference, happiness and celebration. We truly do share our ideas and challenge each other with curious passion and love.

And every single one of us truly hopes to see more and more of that in the world, and willingly shares those hopes with volume and honesty. Raw and often seen by others as strange and perhaps a little bit crazy, we know that we are okay with that. We know, crazy or not... here we are!

Thank-you friends for being here too!!
Hugs, smiles and love!!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Autism Answer: Know and be comfortable with your WHY

I have been appreciating autism for teaching me to find--what my mom calls--my why. When we're having a hard time teaching our kids to do something, like sleep in their own beds for example, Autism insists we ask ourselves...why? Why am I teaching this? 

Often the answer is because that's what kids are supposed to do in which case maybe we should re-evaluate our efforts. Other times it's because I strongly believe we all need privacy at some point in every day in which case knowing our why will give us a renewed energy for our efforts and we become much more consistent. 

Thanks to autism I have learned to sit back and discover my why in every other aspect of my life. I want that job. Why? My kids need school. Why? I want to lose ten pounds. Why? And so much more. What a wonderful difference it has made!! My choices are entirely my own, made with intention and an excited energy! 

One of the many examples of how autism asks challenging questions, begs us to think outside the box and then... Autism Answers!

Hugs, smiles and love!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Autism Answer: Sometimes it's okay not to say it

Well friends, we made it!!! The Greyhound bus trip from Dallas, TX to Los Angeles, CA with Declyn and Shay was fabulous! We read together, sang together, snuggled and chatted. Shay (my chit-chatting-question-asking-socially-funny fifteen year old) met a few fun folks on the bus and filled them in on all his dreams and beliefs. Lucky them!!

I got to my mom's home in Cali where my two oldest sons, Jory and Tyran, are living. I hugged them so tight. I held them so long. I inhaled their energy and admired their masculinity and kindness.

There are no words for how filled with happiness and love I feel, being here with all four of my boys. All four brothers, together and filling each other in on life, loves and new ideas. The sounds, the laughter, the song sharing and video game chatter... I don't understand all of it, but I crave more and more.

There are not words. And so I won't try to say it. My boys can feel it and I can feel it. Why waste time trying to say it?

A nice reminder I think for all of us! Work on communication and clarity, but never forget to take the time to be and feel! Enjoy the search for the right words and understandings, but always center yourself and your family by sitting in the comfort of companionship and love!!

Though.... honestly, I feel so awesome right now I do wish I could find some words to truly share it with you!

Hugs, smiles and love!!!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Autism Answer: He didn't do it, but I know why you thought he did!

At 2AM Sunday morning my youngest brother (who is no longer diagnosable as on the autism spectrum, but still has--what he calls--a 'spicy' personality! In other words, he's still kinda weird!) heard a loud banging on his apartment door. It was the police. There had been a robbery and they believed he was involved.

My brother promised he didn't do it, and then allowed them to check out his apartment. Though I'm sure they found single guy living alone mess, what they didn't find were the stolen items. So they asked him to please stick around town in case they had any questions and let him get back to bed. I'm sure he didn't fall back to sleep!

He called me (at a decent hour, I applaud him for waiting until he knew I'd be up!) to recount the event and share his fear. "They probably think I'm suspicious because they caught me being silly one night when the library was closed and I was pretending I wanted to get in." I added, "There was also that time they caught you sitting in and pretending to drive that truck at the car dealership."

The woman who had been robbed was pretty sure my brother didn't do it. She had some other thoughts on who it probably was. At this point is seems that my brother is out of any danger, and I'm absolutely impressed with how he handled the ordeal!

I'm not upset with the police for assuming it was my baby brother. He has, by his own admission, drawn suspicion to himself. And I fully understand that others are uncomfortable around a person who's habits and choices are so foreign to them, and that they feel nervous around such unpredictability. I love that they spoke to my brother, and not me or my mom. I love that his oddness is normal enough to not warrant a call to his 'caregiver'.

I love lots of things that came out of this pretty scary and potentially awful scenario. Mostly, I love my brother for handling it well and seeing his own role in the game.

Mostly, I love my brother!

Hugs, smiles and love!!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Autism Answer: A Father's Day Love Note

When we met I had three kids and absolutely no intention of ever sharing my parenting world. 

Surely no one else could love my boys the way I did! 

With patience you allowed me to see that you could. Together we had another, and my four sons became our four sons. 

I thank-you with all of my heart for always loving all of us, and for always letting us love you our way. 

I thank-you for loving me so completely that I couldn't help but explore my gifts and beauty, and learn to love myself. 

I thank-you for showing our boys how to take care of a woman. By loving her and letting her grow without telling her how. 

I thank-you for showing our boys how to raise a family. By trusting and trying and communicating. By remembering that communication is so much bigger than words, and clearer when kept consistently kind. 

And I thank-you for being a strong, hard working and open minded role model for our sons, who have quickly become men. 

Before we met I was certain that marriage and co-parenting were for weaker women and compromising moms. 

Before we met, I was afraid to try. 

Thank-you for loving me out of that fear and gifting me with a fabulous father for our children. 

We thank you. We appreciate you. We grow with you. 

We love you! 

Happy Father's Day my love!!! 

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Twelve years ago we were having this much fun.
We still are!
Happy Father's Day my love!!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Autism Answer: Rose Colored Glasses in your wardrobe? Sweet!

On my page I share stories, ideas and memories... all the while intentionally offering a happy spin! With each story I share there are many, many moods I could choose as a narrator, I almost always choose happy. This is very much on purpose!

I have no desire to lie to myself or others about the challenges of autism, parenting, working, or life in general. The reason I choose a happy tone is I tend to FEEL my narration and BECOME my narration. Funnily, I learned this from my mom who learned it from performing stand-up comedy! Starting out, she took advantage of the hilarity inherent in making fun of and complaining about us teenagers. Funny stuff, but we were quietly offended as teens and mom started thinking and feeling her jokes at home. She noticed pretty quickly and decided to change! Her jokes became hilariously inspirational--even the sexy ones!-- and she sometimes included us kids in her shows, inviting us on stage! It became amazing family fun!

So when I share my stories with a happy spin, I'll admit that I do hope to give you some useful tips and giggles! I truly love that idea! But, since there is no way for me to crawl into a readers brain and make them see what I'm hoping to share--and no way for me to be sure that my ideas are any good anyway!-- I choose to write with a happy spin that makes me feel good! One that reminds me to see the answers hidden in the challenges of autism, teenagers, change, life in general. So, read my posts remembering that pain, frustration and mistakes are absolutely included. I even get a strange enjoyment our of sharing my not-so-pretty qualities, I just choose a pretty highlighter in the telling! 

Small habits can make big changes! Putting a happy spin on your life stories--especially when telling them to yourself!--isn't a lie. I also don't think it puts you in danger of being hoodwinked (although, my hubby and I disagree on that point!), but it can make you feel good, make your kids feel good, make your life feel good! 

Hugs, smiles and love!!!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Autism Answer: Do it anyway!

I have very little money, four teenagers and a husband who works his butt off providing what he can so that I can work at home chasing my dreams. I have a sister and a mom who work their butts off to pay for my family's annual summer holiday trip to California so that we can be together. I have children who never complain about not having iPods or socks without holes, because they love what we do have.

Often I am tempted to say no to all the beautiful things being offered to me. Often I think I should stop following my dreams and get a job--my mom pays me for what I do on her behalf, but she's my mom so I still feel kinda bad--, stay home all summer so that my family saves money and can work less, whine about my kids not having iPods or brand new socks.

But mostly I'm just happy to enjoy what is offered and ever willing to do what I can to make it as easy and fun as possible. I learned this trick by watching my mom always do it anyway with us kids, and especially my autistic brothers. We didn't have the money, my brothers didn't seem to have the skills, but mom always did it anyway! And now, they do have the skills! And none of my brothers feel like the world owes them more than what they give it. They work hard, pick a goal, wonder if it's too lofty and then do it anyway! They buy brand new cars and trucks, snowboards and flat screen TVs and work the exact types of jobs they imagined when they were young.

So when you wonder if your goals are too lofty, or worry that you don't deserve the gifts life (and family or friends!) are offering, remember not doing it teaches not doing it. And then... do it anyway!!!

Hugs, smiles and love!!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Autism Answer: Every Single Life has Equal Value!

There is not a single one of us that is better than another. Yet different cultures are so foreign to us they can seem barbaric or just plain crazy. Every belief has it's inherent dangers and risks, but those that are contrasting to ours tend to frighten or offend us. Because of this we see war, hate and discrimination.

As families of special needs, especially the very misunderstood autism, we are continually challenged to discover the importance and beauty in the world of the 'very different'. We are sometimes tempted to see ourselves as 'better than'--whether we are the autistic one or someone loudly loving an autistic person--but in truth no one is better, or has more innate value, than another.

This truth is something most of us feel and believe. Yet we often catch ourselves (me included!) thinking or behaving differently. Today, let's think about just how much we all have to offer each other. Historically, hope for power and land, and fear of unknown cultures, has often led to much hate and killing.

Historically, also, a belief in the value of each individual has continued to win over the majority! I think because no matter what games we play in our minds we know that one life has never been more important than another. Ever. 

I say we look around at the world and focus on how hard everyone is trying, how much value there is in each and every life, and what we can do to be an active part of narrating our world--the one in our own home, our community, our planet, our universe, our soul--with that voice! And that understanding!

We are all equally valuable and fabulously able. Just drastically differently so! Let's enjoy and learn from that!

Hugs, smiles and love!!!!

Some of my kids: they are drastically different, and equally valuable!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Autism Answer: It happened. So... give it a reason!

Stuff happens. Fun stuff, challenging stuff, scary stuff, painful stuff, lovely stuff, mysterious stuff... and on, and on! So I encourage you, especially in those moments when the stuff is making your emotions wild with confusion--to give it a reason!

I was driving my youngest brother to the airport a few days ago. It was a beautiful day to drive, and we enjoyed the first hour in comfortable, thoughtful silence. The second hour was filled with fun and insightful conversation! My brother was thinking about how unbelievably unfair it is that his birth mother (our mom adopted him and his two brothers when they were little) drank alcohol while she was pregnant with him and our other brothers. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the many labels they had when my mom fought to adopt them, and though she's been able to help them peel most of the labels off over the years, this is a very sticky one! 

My brother looked at me and said,"It's just so selfish of her. It was just a few months of drinking for her, but for me, it's my lifetime." So... it happened. Together, we looked for a reason

My brothers have allowed my mom to share their story, and have become louder and more confident when sharing it themselves. Hundreds, if not thousands, of others have benefited from the lessons in our life! Also, my brother realized the importance of thinking about how your choices affect others. How sometimes we might be thinking of a pleasure for ourselves in that very moment and forget to wonder what it may do to those around us. He also started telling me about his new belief in Karma, and how it's helped him on the road to forgiving his biological mom. And how it's helped him make the hard choices when they seem right, knowing that it will not only benefit him in this life, but possibly the next. 

This doesn't mean it's good that his mom was an alcoholic who chose to put beer in their bottles... but we gave it a reason. And my brother is better for it! Not the stuff... but the reason!

Again, it happened. So... give it a reason!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)
Me and my baby brother. The oldest and youngest siblings!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Autism Answer: Autism as a Gift to the World

What is it that makes autism so hard? I know we all want to shout out immediate answers like, "poo on the walls!" or "questionable future for myself and my children!" or "no freakin' sleep!" I have no intention of shrugging those shouts off, but I want to suggest that one of the fiercest reasons autism can be so hard is common perceptions of social norms. Whether we are parents of autistic children, friends or neighbors of autism, individuals on the spectrum or all of the above, a desire to fit in and be liked is running rampant. Because wanting to fit in and be liked is human.

I can't tell you how many times my low functioning thirty year old autistic brother would jump up and down clapping and screaming in a public place, and immediately my vision would become fuzzy. My smile would become fake. I'd giggle and ask my brother to calm down and show his joy only to me, not the entire store. The giggle and the smile were both for my brother and the staring (and usually frightened!) strangers. The asking him to calm down was for me, so that the staring strangers would think I am a nice person taking her strange man-brother out of the house even though I have to restrain his joy and teach him to keep it down.

Some good news is, my mom is a wonderful teacher who has drilled into my head explain, explain, explain. And so my brother would then hear me lovingly explain why it is inappropriate to scream and jump in the store. How the older lady that had just turned ridiculously white may have actually had a heart attack and we were just lucky that she didn't! In all, a well handled and not all too horrible situation. However, the whole time I could feel eyes on me and judgments (like 'poor girl'... yuck!) boring into my skin. I couldn't wait to get home where our joy could be screamed and jumped without risking stranger intervention. I chose to use this example, where things were loving and fine, even though there have been many much uglier incidences, because I was still uncomfortable. I was still aware that when people go to the store they want to shop, use coupons, find good deals and possibly flirt with the cashier. They don't want to have heart attacks or worry about a strange man flicking their ponytail. Because I know this, I allow myself to feel apologetic and embarrassed.

Who made up these common perceptions of social norms? Why shouldn't we go to the store hoping to run into Mark Ruffalo, comfortable helping a stranger get himself and his walker into his van, dance in the aisles while we look for the organic ketchup or apologize to the sensory challenged child for our loud tie dyed shirt and then make a game of finding something to cover up with? Who decided we shouldn't walk out our door expecting magic and curiosities? I truly would like to meet this person and suggest that these common perceptions of social norms are hurting our world. Children are bullied and afraid to be themselves. Hormone imbalanced teens are trying to discover their individuality but want desperately to fit in. New moms and dads are looking outside themselves to see how to be good parents. Men and women who have spent a lifetime working and paying bills, acquiring the 'right things' and handling responsibilities are looking for themselves. Common perceptions of the social norms are hurting us and stifling our discovery of self. For families with autism it is truly one of the biggest hurdles. And, perhaps because of the importance behind spreading open mindedness and a willingness to do things different in the world of autism, we will fight for this important change. Perhaps autism is the gift that will force us to re-evaluate our common perceptions of social norms. Our world has become dangerously rule bound, judgmental and drugged. But it is also beautifully littered with people who mean well, are loving and willing to allow for difference.

Figuring out who we are and how to be--like autism--is challenging, not sad.

We are only human. We are wonderfully human. We are all human. The rest is just perception. It doesn't have to be common. 

Once again... Autism Answers.

Hugs, smiles and love!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Autism Answer: If not for happiness, then for what?

Why do you work so hard and learn so much and advocate with passion? Is it so your child can learn to talk? Is it so your Aspie husband can learn to bite his tongue and speak only appropriately, offering him more friendships? Is it so that your sister will stop hitting herself when crowds or noises overwhelm? Is it so you can believe in a future where you play with the grandkids while your child goes on a date with his/her loved one? Maybe it's because you want people to stop looking at you strangely when you wear your noise cancelling headphones at the grocery store. Is it because you want to help someone you love learn to feed themselves and have bowel movements that aren't painful? Is it because you feel lost and confused and you're searching for some answers that make you feel connected? Answers that encourage and inspire you? Answers that make you feel like you know what to do?

These are all wonderful reasons! These are all valid reasons! But none of these are exactly REAL reasons, because in truth, they are just things we see as a way to happiness.

I'm not saying we should stop advocating, learning or struggling only to sit around grinning goofily...tee hee!... I'm merely reminding myself that it's important to never ever forget the true goal: Happiness. Otherwise it can become easy to get lost in all the ideas and hardships. Since happiness is always in our grasp, it's nice to remember that it's also the thing we are most often looking for.

All that other stuff is going to happen, we'll all make sure of that! And when it does, there will be more stuff to make happen! In the meantime it's nice to remember during this pursuit of happiness, exactly what it is we are pursuing. And that it's something we already have. (Rather like that popular mistake of looking for your cell phone while your talking on it!)

Happiness, comfort, love, acceptance etc... these are all things we can give ourselves at any moment. They are things we can share, right now, with our loved ones. Let's try not to get so caught up in the fight for happiness, that we forget to feel it!

I mean, if not for happiness, then for what?

Hugs, smiles and love!!!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Autism Answer: It's Okay to be Sad while you're Happy!

This parenting thing is full of challenging surprises!! Yesterday I spoke to Jory (my oldest son) on the phone and he admitted to being a little bit sad. He lives two States away from me, is working at Blockbuster and trying to pay his rent, buy groceries and still have fun with his friends. He's new at this budgeting thing and has made a few mistakes--okay, more than a few!! I'm happy for him because he hasn't expected me or my mom to step in and save him, he's learning very important lessons, and he's willing to admit when he's messed up! I'm sad because I know how hard it is to be broke, and I want to crawl inside his head and tell him it'll be okay.

Today I was chatting with Tyran (my second oldest, the one hanging with my wildly autistic brother, Dar, while mom's in Africa) and mentioned that it might be nice if he were to invite his older brother over for a healthy supper. Tyran was thrilled with the idea!! He's been enjoying his thirty-one year old uncle, and they have done some adventuring, but the conversation is quite limited! So he's been kinda lonely and was excited to invite his big brother! I'm sad because Tyran is so far away from me, he's been asked to handle a new school, watch his autistic uncle and navigate the public transit though he's famous for always getting lost. I'm happy because he's doing a wonderful job and is comfortably calling me when he needs to know how to buy a stamp or cook the chicken!

Right now Jory, Tyran and Dar are sitting down to a steak and veggie dinner that Tyran made himself, with a little guidance from me on the phone. I am sad because I can't be there, and because I know that I won't be there with them for quite a long time. I'm happy because they are there for each other, they look to me for guidance--without expectation and with appreciation--and I feel confident that I have gifted the world with wonderful men.

I'm learning that it's okay to be sad while your happy.

Luckily, the sad is pretty small, and I'm ultimately very very happy!!!

My two oldest boys, there for each other while living far away from me.
So happy-sad!! 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Autism Answer: Find and use your strengths!!

When I think about my mom I imagine the words tough and smart and creative and kind insistence

When I think about my sister I imagine words like smart and cool and organized

I also used to think in both cases that those words made my mom and sister better than me. Oops! 

Words that come to mind when thinking of myself are silly and satisfied and following. And I often used to wonder about the validity of those strenghts. Even though my mom--who is a global mental health therapist--has told me over and over that when Dar (my still autistic brother) stays with me, he has an opportunity to assimilate his learnings and take a small break from constant bar raising--an important step for him in his quest for independence-- I still wonder about the validity of my own strengths. 

But, as my mom constantly and kindly points out, with my own children I have taken the lead by following. I have used my skills as a satisfied and silly mom to be happy with who they are and find fun and silly ways to make sure they are happy too! 

When I was busy trying to be tough and smart, I wasn't helping anyone. In truth, I was drowning my own strengths in self-doubt. And, in turn, teaching my kids to do the same. Not cool!

Now I can see that my strengths are equally as useful as anyone else's, even my mom and my sisters! And guess what that must mean?! So are the strengths in our kids and friends and neighbors!! Regardless of labels, colors, cultures etc.!! Let's use our strengths to help them find their strengths!! 

My guess is that it will be fun for all of us! 

Hugs, Smiles and Love!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Autism Answer: The Other Side of the Coin

Yesterday we were finally sitting in the movie theater--we'd made it! Flat tires and empty bank accounts tried to slow us down, but we'd prevailed! Like the mind-boggling tricks we were about to witness in the movie, I was feeling magical!! My energy was bubbling out of me like the soap suds during a cartoon characters first attempt at using a washing machine! 

The previews came on and I grabbed my son's hand with excitement! A trailer showed two little girls gone missing and desperate parents out of their minds with fear, I grabbed my other son's arm to bury my head and hold back tears! Another trailer... this time I see Vin Diesel!! I love Vin Diesel! It's another Riddick movie!! I made excited gasps and tapped my children on the shoulder so they would look at me and experience my excitement too!!

Okay... so I was annoying. Plain and simple! My boys finally asked me to please calm down, reign in my energy and stop pouring it all over the strangers sitting in our row etc. And they were right, but I was so excited that we were there! About to see Mark Ruffalo on the big screen! I love Mark Ruffalo! And my boys were with me!! I REALLY love my boys!!!! Such fun!!

I did eventually calm down and we had a great time. But I couldn't help thinking about this thing that I've thought about so very many times before. Often the things we love about a person are also the things that annoy us.

My overly excited habit is usually fun and one of the reasons my kids adore me! I will have a good time and see the fabulous in most situations, and my boys find it infectious! But every now and then, I'm a bit much. I've always been this way. And I can be annoying... even to me!

I see this same thing with all the people that I love. Something that I see as a great quality and a valuable part of their personality, is also the thing that makes them sometimes annoying. My husband is very strong and goes way out of his way to keep us safe, I love that! But he also asks me not to walk home from the store because there is a not-so-good neighborhood I'd walk through. I think that's annoying! But when I first said something cliche like,"You can't tell me where to walk!" he responded with a perfectly correct,"I want to protect you. What would the boys think of me if anything happened to you? They trust me to keep you guys safe." Darn. I love that about him, but I like walking! How annoying!

My severely autistic brother is constantly tidying up. Flicking and shoving and tossing everything off to the side or under something. He likes to feel useful and enjoys empty space. He is motivated to be a contributing and kind family member and I love it!! However, I can't just put something down for a second without him wanting to push it to the side or tuck it under something. Receipts and lost shoes are living somewhere, free of being an eyesore but free of being useful too! That's kind of annoying!

I see it everywhere and often, a great thing that comes with a bit of baggage. A bit of compromising and learning that'll have to be done. And I've learned to love seeing that!!! 

I've become quite comfortable with the other side of the coin! And I hope the strangers sitting in our row at the movie theater the other day have too!! Tee hee!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Autism Answer: On breaking a few rules!

My husband has worked at the same glass factory for over fifteen years. At first, no one had cell phones. Then, some uppity techies had cell phones. Then everyone had cell phones.

There were no rules about cell phones when my hubby started working there. Then the uppity techies started using the phones to make work safer and easier, and that was neat. Then everyone started using their phones to text instead of work and watch and share porn. So, they had to make some rules.

So now, no one is allowed to use cell phones during work hours at all. They can be used in the break room when you are on break. Of course, people use their phones anyway, for all the same reasons they used them before, but less often and they try to be sneaky.

My husband will hide in the bathroom to call me and tell me he loves me and ask about my day. Sometimes he hangs up on me when he thinks he hears someone coming. I like the game of sneak and chat. I like it a lot!

Most rules are created by people to solve problems, we do it all the time as parents. Rarely are the rules followed precisely but they do help maintain some order and understanding of what will happen if so-and-so does such-and-such. They help us parents put words to life lessons.

Not only that, but rules are also very fun to break every now and then, if it's for a wonderful reason! When you consider breaking your own rules, or societies rules--whether as a parent or an individual--be certain you are honest about your reasons. Be sure your not doing it to watch porn... so to speak! Be sure it's because you think it's worth it to sneak into the bathroom, hiding like a child, to connect with someone you love.

If you are consistent with your reasons, then a few rules can be broken now and then!!

Hugs, smiles and love!!!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Autism Answer: "We're all in this alone." ~Lily Tomlin

I ran across that Lily Tomlin quote the other day, and absolutely loved it! I think it's so true, and both lovely and sad, depending on how you look at it in the moment your looking at it. Mostly, I think it's lovely!

Autistic folks are often said to be "in their own world", but that is, of course, equally true for everyone! No one but us can hear our thoughts, know our deepest challenges or feel our bodies pains and pleasures. 

However, we are all in this! How wonderful to know that we can share, learn from, reach out to and help each other. 

My brother, Dar, is thirty-one and very challenged. There is no way I can ever get into his head and know how it feels to be him. Neither can he do that for me. But I think it is enough that we want to. 

So know that, though you are of course the only one who can crawl inside and be you, you are not by yourself! There are so, so, so many others in this alone as well! Most are ready to offer support and love!

Including me!! 

Hugs, smiles and love!!!

Autism Answer: Encourage passion... even if it's a bit inconvenient!

My oldest son used to beg for new toys, bring them home, immediately take them apart and turn them into something else. It drove my hubby crazy! Then he would take every piece of furniture-- including pots, pans and toilet paper--and create worlds in our living room. It wasn't easy living in a constant state of ever changing imaginative worlds--and we lost many spatulas in the process!--but we encouraged this creative mess, and kept suggesting intention.

My son is now nineteen, and continues to create.
My mom--who loves to learn new skills, especially with family!-- completed an editing course with him, where he excelled and seems to have found an outlet for his creative slicing and recreating. She has taken him on as an assistant editor for her many projects, and his mind continues to spin with his own creative imagery and ideas. He also mixes music to create stories and invents whole worlds he wants to share with an audience in books, songs and videos; a passion that comes from seeing things as possibilities.

And--importantly-- from growing-up encouraged to be his passionate self, with intention! It was an inconvenient mess at times, but mostly it's been a blessing to be part of his story, and to help him find it's direction!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

"I feel it coming in. My voice is getting an opinion." ~Jory Shelton (my oldest son)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Autism Answer: They scratch her, they headbutt her, they adore her!

*ABOVE: Enjoy a quick video with some neurofeedback info and clips from episode 2 of  the international reality series FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD! This was the original pitch video for the show, which is now available on The Autism Channel!!

My mom--Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad-- flies all over the world and works successfully with violent autistic adults/teens who are often frightening and hurting their families. Most of the time, no one else will work with these folks. My mom, though, my mom is good at it. I know, I grew up with her! All eight of us kids will tell ya!

My brother, Dar, was severely autistic and violent in his teens. Violent around everyone but mom. I tried to explain to mom what he was doing when I was brother-sitting (hitting himself, grabbing and bruising my arm, denting my car with his head etc...) so she could give me pointers, but it was hard for her to imagine this Dar I was talking about!

Professionals always wanted to think that my mom was abusing him. It was the only explanation they could come up with for why he would behave so beautifully for her, and so dangerously for them. But I knew better. My mom has always been kinder to my brother than anyone else has. I know what they were seeing. That with a stern, "that's not okay!" from her, he would calm down, be kind. Yet with all of our attempts at, "Please calm down Dar. I know you are having a hard time and I'm trying to understand your words...." he would smack himself in the face and punch the wall. Admittedly, I'm just his sister, they were just professionals, and mom is his mom, automatically carrying a little more weight. But there was another reason. A somewhat sad reason.

My mom never allowed my brothers to be violent because she believed with all of her heart that they were capable of controlling themselves and communicating their problems. Via language, pointing, patient allowing of problem solving from her etc. However, I did not believe. To me, my brothers--especially Dar--seemed incapable of understanding or caring when the violence began. I used kind words and a kind voice, but I was not thinking kind thoughts. I was thinking, "Why me? When's mom going to get home? How long is this crankiness going to last?" Dar could feel that thinking. Dar could tell the difference.

So, when my mom goes into these homes around the globe she lets them hurt her once. She can't tell me actual stories (darn confidentiality!) but I've seen the bruises, the scratches and the missing tooth! After she's been hurt, she says with kindness, "That is not okay." and she explains why friends don't hurt friends. She gives them neurofeedback to help them feel comfortable in their skin. The parents see this and know that their kids can learn to be non-violent and kind. And with that belief, some neurofeedback and family dynamics tips from my mom, they change. My mom doesn't walk out of their homes while the family holds hands singing 'Kumbaya', there is still very much work to be done, but they have hope and answers. They really believe!

And they absolutely adore my mom!

Hugs, smiles and love!!

Dar and mom dancing to the rhythm of life!

"You can't walk gingerly. You have to step in and say I'm going to love you robustly, and we are going to get to the end of this!" ~Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Autism Answer: What's your Mission Statement?

Why are we running away from earths abundance of solar and wind energy by digging holes in the ground for oil? Is it because we already have systems and equipment and money rolling in? Is it because we already know how, and we're used to it, and hey--it works? 

Regardless of whose science you choose to believe, oil is not nearly as abundant as solar and wind. You just can't really argue that. So, what are we doing?

As parents we know this conundrum well. As friends of autism, even more so!! "This therapy or diet choice is working wonders," we'll cry! "This chore chart has made life simple and organized," we'll sing!! And it will! And it's wonderful! For a while....

Then we see new issues, or old issues, or challenges we'd never even considered. Do we throw away what's been working and try something new? But... the thing that was working, WAS working. And isn't it like giving up to try something new? Do we incorporate new ideas or therapies? Do we merely modify what we've been doing, or just assume this turn of events is a phase that with diligence and consistence will work itself out? Do we, do we, do we????

I think, as in the issue of where we get our energy, we insist on being flexible and willing to change, without seeing the old way as the bad way. It never was. It was just one of the ways. For another parent, the diet choice or homeschooling choice or therapy choice that you are possibly modifying or changing, may be just what they need! Because, remember, at one time it was just what you needed!! And perhaps it will become what you need again! 

My mom loves my brothers so much, she's tried and believed in so many things! We eight kids didn't have designer jeans or fancy hairdos, but we had auditory training, macrobiotics and blue green algae!! Every single thing helped some of us in some way, while other kids were helped by other things. My mom was never married to a therapy or diet, she was always married to the idea of helping us kids grow and learn and become comfortable in our bodies and brains. (She was also married to guys off and on... but they were a little less patient with our souls over sneakers approach!)

So, don't forget that you (and your family) are the expert in your home. If you see that your business model needs changing, or that new technologies and beliefs and learning's mean that you may want to revamp the job descriptions of everyone in the home, do it! Have fun with it! 

You should never give up on a thing just because it may not be perfect, but don't be afraid to change course either. This flexibility, with a consistent eye on the true goal (in our home that was forward motion, comfort and happiness) is something the rest of the world could really learn from us here in the autism community!

My mom--Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad--has had many businesses, and her mission statement always remained unchanged. She created it as a mom and carried it with her as an entrepreneur and international mental health therapist. Her intention is to teach herself out of a job by insisting on beautiful forward motion and flexibility. And always my mom has been successful. Always!

Let's be successful too!
What's your mission statement?

Hugs, smiles and love!!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Autism Answer: Have a grown-up crush on humanity!

When teenagers have a crush they put blinders up to any wrong their butterflies-in-the-stomach sweetie may be up to. That's because teenagers are self-centered and a little bit silly! They're thinking about how they themselves look to the other. Am I pretty and the wind beneath his wings? Am I pretty and the girl who'll put him in his place? Am I pretty and nice? Am I pretty and.... ? (ya, I wanted to be pretty when I was a teen!)

 But as we grow, hopefully having a crush means thinking bigger. We still WANT to see good in the person we are crushing on, but are more willing to be unaccepting of the things that we don't want in our lives, or in the world. We are more comfortable with our beliefs and vision and willing to make choices that match our desires, while being open to seeing--though sometimes reluctantly!--qualities and actions that will take us off course. 

My brothers were all on the spectrum of autism, and I love them with all my heart. But it wouldn't help them to be putting their lips on heaters or locking teachers in closets. And so my mom exampled loving unconditionally while expecting change and growth. If my brothers hadn't been so challenged, this lesson--the acceptance inherent in guiding and asking for change-- may have not been so clear. But it was. 

And so now I have a grown-up crush on humanity, I engage with a desire to see what I like and a willingness to ask for changes in the things I don't. I want my relationship with humanity to be mutually beneficial. I want to learn from it as it learns from me, and I want it to last! There is a place for compromise and flexibility, as with all relationships. But I want humanity and I to respect each other enough to allow for healthy and happy growth that encourages difference and strange bedfellows!

 Also... I kinda hope it thinks I'm pretty!! Tee hee!

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

Autism Answer: Twisting to Find Yourself

My son and I were chatting in the car. His brother was spending the night with a friend and he was feeling lonely, missing his playmate and best friend. These two boys couldn't look more different but have always had a twin like connection! 

So, on this night, he was talking about how rarely he visits friends as compared to his brothers. The talk was a lovely and important one, and I keep remembering one of the things he said that I adored.

"When I'm at a friends house they have different rules and stuff, so I always have to not be myself when I get there. Then I twist around inside until I can figure out how to be myself, with the new rules." 

I love it! I love, love, love that he didn't stop with not being himself, but insisted on twisting around until he figured out how to be comfortably him in a new environment. We all have different aspects of ourselves, different styles of being us that are perfectly authentic. Some of us can ease in and out of the appropriate ones simply, without even noticing. Others (like many on the spectrum of autism) often have to take the time to twist inside themselves actively, until they find just the right them that fits most comfortably for the moment!

I've noticed these sort of social skill revelations with my autistic kiddos often. Something about it not coming naturally has helped us learn to look at it closely, and my boys see things so interestingly! 

Thank-you to all of our autistic loved ones for encouraging us to look at things differently!! And I promise to twist and twist and twist until I find my comfortable self while learning to understand you!!

Hugs, smiles and love!!

*Feel free to enjoy this video of my son... dancing like himself!!!*

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Autism Answer: Acceptance is Attractive!

A man walked up to me in the grocery store.

"M'am", he said,"you are a very pretty lady."

"Well, thank-you very much!" I exclaimed, making comfortable eye contact and smiling brightly.

After the gentleman walked away my youngest son asked me, "Why do people always say that to you?"

Choosing to teach, rather than to be offended by his utter confusion regarding my possibly prettiness, I explained,"Because I'm happy and open to conversation. When people are comfortable being themselves, they don't waste time worrying about how they seem. Instead they're excited and curious about other people. And, well, they look pretty. Or, in your case, happy and handsome!"

I noticed that my son smiled kindly at passing strangers and walked beside me with a comfortable confidence to the checkout! 

Teaching an open nature and comfortable confidence will do lots of awesome good for autism acceptance! Which, let's remember, is really about acceptance in general. AND...people will call you pretty! tee hee!!

Hugs, smiles and love!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Autism Answer: I have no problem with autism!

When I was a little girl I used to look at other richer, more talented or prettier little girls and wish to be them. I would then immediately shout with my loudest inside-my- mind voice,"no, wait! I want to be ME but with more money and a better singing voice and no mustache!" There was a part of me that feared losing myself if my wishes were granted. I think as parents we are doing a similar thing when we say we wouldn't change our kids (autism or no) for the world. We would do anything--and families of autism will do just about anything out of love!--to help our child be themselves comfortably. But we want them to always be themselves.

We also want to help them find their voice or fix their bowel problems. To give them the gift of social skills and sensory comfort. And so very much more!

The disagreement between parents who voice a contempt for autism vs those that say they would never change their child, is sometimes just a question of semantics. But in my opinion, important semantics. When I say that I see autism as a gift (yes, I have said that) I forget that others aren't inside my head, knowing what I mean. Autism isn't a gift, but there are so many, many gifts inherent in loving someone with autism. For the autistic person, there are also gifts (thinking outside the box, laser focus are some possibilities) but I am allistic (not autistic) so I can only guess. My Autism Answers page is all about sharing the answers our family has been challenged to discover because of autism. But autism itself, is a developmental whole brain disorder. Not a gift. The reason I think the semantics are important is because the way we see things and talk about things will affect the choices we make and the way we present ourselves to the world. And, of course, it will affect the way our children and autistic friends think about themselves and their willingness to comfortably be honest with us.

I think that saying 'I wouldn't change my kid for the world' can be misleading to some, but it is a beautiful misleading that will eventually end up in a happier and more comfortable place for everyone. It's not that we shouldn't be honest, just be intentional.

For example, I wouldn't change my brother, Dar, for the world. But I will follow my mom's lead as she follows his, in the ever-important quest for helping him gain skills (like language!) and be a happy, comfortable him!!!

Hugs, smiles and love!!!