Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Autism Answer: Autism Answers!

If I had grown up surrounded by less autism, I think I would have had very little motivation to discover my truth. I was born with a quiet inner voice; one that whispered self-consciously, though it wanted to be heard. However, its timid ways were easy for me to ignore and with less autism to love, I would likely have gone along with the norm because it was decided for me, and I would have looked away when the norm was challenged, because that feels easier in the moment. I would have drown my inner voice with the voices of society and others.

Not everyone needs to live on the outskirts of society in order to truly see; but I did. And because of my autistic loved ones--recovered and not--I was at my mom's side while she explained, showed, proved, and believed in odd people and strange answers. Odd because they are unusual, strange because they challenge us to be creative and break unwritten rules. I got a first class education while she shunned society's norms and invented creative solutions that healed and taught skills. So now I am gifted with a willingness to see. I'm connected to my choices, my family, and myself. 

My inner voice has grown confident and strong. When I explain my choices, show my reasons, and incorporate so many possible perspectives--knowing, thanks to autism, that perspective possibilities are endless!--I give volume to my truth and choose it with intention. 

And because I am so connected and intentional, I don't at all feel on the outskirts of society. How could I? I am surrounded! By people, support, love, laughter, ideas, trust, spontaneity, reasons above rules, difference, talents, happiness, and needs! We are not the outskirts of society, we are an epicenter! 

And we are building outward beautifully! Myself, my brothers, my mother, my sons, my husband, my friends... so many of us are truly happy, largely because of the questions autism asked, and the answers autism offered.

So don't be shy! Much like my inner voice, with time and attention and motivation you will grow loud and confident! Find your own unique autism answers, and share them with your world. 

And one day, when our inclusive, strange, colorful societies collide, we will have changed all of our worlds. 

And it will be fabulous!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Autism Answer: Privacy Is Boring. My Way Is Perfect... For Me!!

I've always noticed a real disconnect between me and many others regarding the issue of privacy. I truly have no interest in it. I don't at all even quite understand the desire for privacy. 

It's not something I see as wrong for wanting, I just don't understand. If anything, I've been know to wonder if there is something wrong with me because of my serious distaste for privacy. Goodness knows my husband wouldn't mind if I discovered a desire for it!

Admittedly, I'm not a fan of the judgements, accusations, and even sometimes concrete consequences of living life loud and openly. But I've also never known a private person who doesn't deal with these same issues. So, again, privacy doesn't feel important, or at all desirable, to me.

Anyway, recently I had a thought. Perhaps growing up in my loud, strange, autistic, colorful, and very different family--one that invited constant stares from strangers pretending not to stare, and opinions from people pretending it means they care--is why privacy is just something I never knew. And rather than choose to wish for something I don't have, it's my habit to enjoy and even take advantage of what I do have. So, like so many things I've wondered about myself, I find an answer and I like it!

I also realized that holding back aspects of my life often means holding back on possible learning's. For me and for others. I appreciate that this isn't true for everyone, but it is certainly true for me! Again, I find an answer about myself and I like it!

Finding these answers doesn't make me a different person, but it does make me more comfortable with who I am. And the practice of searching for my personal reasons keeps me in check, and reminds me that we ALL have equally personal, and equally valid, reasons. 

It also means I'm happy to keep sharing anything and everything about myself with you. Sorry about that!!!!
tee hee!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Autism Answer: Know Your Audience (clue: it's the world!)

*Author's Note: I wrote this a few years ago, when blue was a consistently common color in autism literature. I've noticed that it's not as true anymore. It seems we've gotten much more colorful with autism banners and such. I like colors!!

Shay was sprawled on the ground messing with his electric train. I was cooking supper nearby and we were enjoying some silent together time. Suddenly, Shay looked up at me. 

Shay: Remember how my favorite color has always been blue?
Me: Of course sweetie.
Shay: Do you think it has something to do with my autism?
Me: I don't think so. I don't see why it would. (I was, however, thinking about the trains he's so obsessed with, but anyway....)
Shay: I was just wondering because lots of the autism stuff I see is blue.

It was a nice little reminder to always keep in mind that the world is our audience. Not just parents, kids, adult autistics, verbal special needs, black, gay, scared of spiders or all of the above... but everyone! I've got nothing against the color blue for autism--actually, it's supposed to be calming which is lovely!--but it was a nice little reminder that anything I say should be something I'm comfortable with no matter whose eyes or ears they reach. Intentional or not!

Declyn was peeking in the fridge, looking for a snack. I asked him if he wanted to bake some Gingerbread with me.

Declyn: Ooooohhhh ya! You and me make the best gingerbread. And it's organic!
Me: Okay, we'll make it but only if you promise to eat most of it. I don't want to get any fatter. Your dad might stop loving me!
Declyn: Okay, I'll eat it all!!
Me: (realizing my mistake) No way! I was just kidding, I want half of it!! Your dad loves me because of who I am, not because of how much space I take up! I'm going to make coffee, it'll go good with my half of the gingerbread.

Not only is it important to remember that our audience is the world, and that we are teaching an attitude with our message, but also to be comfortable seeing our mistakes and changing direction. We are all guilty of stereotyping, making judgments, and offering biased, uneducated opinions. That's okay, as long as we are also guilty of changing our minds, and willingly learning from our lives and the lives of others, so we can see when and where we've had our "oops" moments!

Without question, our lives are much more interesting and inspiring when we offer "deleted scenes" and "bloopers" to our audience!

Have a wonderful, say what you're happy with the world hearing, kind of day!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Autism Answer: Retirement (aka no more excuses!)

Well... my husband's last day of work is tomorrow. And then he's a retired man! He's been adorably nervous and sentimental the last few days, as is to be expected. Transitions are emotional, and this is a pretty obvious transition! 

One thing's for sure though, he won't be bored. We've been putting things off, using the phrase, "after retirement" a lot over the past year. So his to-do list is really long, and our boys are excited to be able to work alongside him now, learning and helping and getting to know their dad a little better. 

He'll have no more excuses to put off fixing the floors, getting rid of the junk in his yard, welding that trailer his friend asked him to weld two years ago, and showing our boys how to do this stuff. It's a little bit exciting and a little bit scary.

Then there's me! I promised myself that when hubby retired I'd write my books. Now that he will be more available, I can allow myself to disappear into the worlds of my making. My transition is a little less obvious, a little less impressive, because I've been gradually doing it. Learning the art of writing by working for my mom, sharing stories here with you, and writing articles and OpEds for different publications. Even jotting down the outline to my books while sitting beside the pool watching my boys swim a few years ago, then patiently allowing some of my characters to reveal their motivations and justifications over time. 

But that doesn't change the fact that I, too, will be out of excuses. I made a promise to me, and I'll struggle with an uncomfortable dislike of myself if I don't keep it. It's a little bit exciting and a little bit scary.

But here we are. And so, it's what we'll do. Starting tomorrow our old routines and excuses will be retired. We'll be living a new book, experiencing a new movie... one that we've imagined and written reviews for, a little prematurely. Without question we'll have to go back and edit our reviews in a few years, once we've begun to live the new story in real time. But I'm confident those reviews will be of the "thumbs up" nature. Not only because my family has a gift for liking most things for the sake of liking, but also because I know that both my husband and I are living our dreams. Being exactly who we wanted to be when we were little and imagined our grown-up selves. 

HIM: A Family Provider and Hard Worker
ME: A Mom and A Writer

And thanks to both parenting and autism, I am able to comfortably retire routines and excuses, regardless of how used to them I've gotten. When I was afraid to let go, I didn't encourage my children or my brothers to fly and explore their own new story... not really. I said I did, but I held back. And so they learned to hold back.

But when we learned to let go and look for those new stories with curious apprehension and a little confidence to play our roles with intention, everyone grew stronger. Everyone gained skills and retired old routines when they became excuses. We all did it in our own time, in our own ways, and with the relied upon support of each other... but we all did it!

So this is it! My husband is retiring and we are growing a new story. This epic tale that is our life is so full of fantastic, I can't even be afraid anymore! I look forward. I look back. I look all around... and I see a library filled with perspectives, styles, and insights!!

A library lacking in nothing, but never closed to new ideas!

I can't wait to share this new story with you!!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton

Friday, February 14, 2014

Choose Your Valentine With Care: He/She is Bound to Change your Brain!~Guest Post by Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD

When you connect deeply with someone a new person evolves, a kind of third wheel singularity that makes choices in cooperation--and even in discord--with the two of you. I first heard this concept, of all places, while reading the book In Cold Blood: a true story about two men that murdered a family of four living peacefully in the country. The writer explained how neither of these men would have committed this crime on their own, but that when the two of them got together a kind of third personality was born. Once this new shadow of life emerged, deeds that would previously have been impossible became acceptable, and actions that would previously have been morally filtered out are acted upon. 

I thought about this A LOT! How often had I become a third person? Many times I realized. How often had I been careful in the creation of that person? Chosen well? Been aware? Seldom. Especially in romance. 

I am unlike most girls. I never dreamed of a man who would buy me things. Not roses or chocolates or Lamborghinis-- though I did hope one would gift me with children. I never dreamed of being spoiled are dripped in diamonds. I dreamed of working hard and saving people. Still, every year when the words "Will you be my Valentine" happened to find my ears via movies, grocery counter cards or radio ads, they coerced a feeling to stir within me, a feeling of yearning, of wanting, of wishing it were so. This would happen to me even if I had a special someone at the time. The difference then was I knew who to yearn for and who to be disappointed in when they didn't buy me the flowers I didn't even want. 

Romance is tricky. 

I should know, I've been married five times. Five times by the age of 43 often for the reason noted above: wanting what I didn't want. 

At one point I even dreamed of getting married on Feb 14th in a white wedding dress covered in embroidered roses. I wanted it to take place on a cruise ship that reminded me of The Love Boat. I wanted it most Februaries even though I hate the claustrophobic feeling of cruise ships and deplore dressing up. I do like weddings. 

Fact is, it isn't just me, people don't always - or maybe never- make sense. They are full of contradictions and emotional responses easily manipulated by childhood dreams, music and imagery. Heck even a camel will cry if you play them the right song. Seriously! 

We may think we are strong but when it comes to romance, well, some of us are not. 

So I devised a plan: Ask yourself who you want to be, how you like to spend your time, and if another person actually fits into this picture, Valentine That! The picture, the third person, the new reality. 

Since you and the person you romance with, sleep with, plan with, work with, talk with, fight with etc, disappear into each other and create a new someone else, design with intention. 

If you are wondering what it is that happens to you that could potentially make a new person out of you-- they call it focus, but for this article we will call it love. This is because when you fall in love or reach to satisfy any yearning and then do, your nucleus accumbens lights up like a Christmas tree on LSD. This is your brain's reward center having a party on its favorite neurochemicals. Actually, maybe I should have said cocaine instead of LSD because love keeps dopamine around almost as well as cocaine does, and dopamine is your reward center's drug of choice.

Romantic love, like the pusher in the back alley, is addictive. Addictions change your brain. In fact all experiences change your brain, but addictions change them quicker and more profoundly by leading us to repeat our actions (in this case, focusing on our feelings and making them grow) over and over again. And as the apple of your eye's pesky little pheromones infiltrate your brain, you lose your ability to judge and asses logically because your frontal lobes are not paying attention. At this point you no longer respond to warning signals about any aspect of your craved for sexy someone, at least until you are satiated. During this mainlining on love period we all lose a few IQ points by turning off our executive functions and lubricating our Limbic system. Our sensory readings go through the roof as we "feel' the other person's nearness, even before we make contact. In a sense our auras extend our bodies into each other. Our brains begin to fire more coherently across the hemispheres like a love seizure of sustained dimensions. So we are happy,giddy and slightly stupid. This is the Valentine drug of romance and while we engage in it we reshape the real-estate of our brains. 

If you are lucky enough to find yourself surrounded by an intervention of friends who help you go cold turkey, you may emerge to discover that during your love drunk bender you reshaped yourself into someone you didn't want to be. You may even of become legally entangled. (Don't worry, divorce is pretty easy in Texas.) 

And I should know, I'm a brain scientist, that's been divorced five times. They call me The Brain Broad! I think it fits. 

Fact is healthy love -which is what you hope you will have once the addictive period of romance backs off -- is supportive, stress relieving, joyous, engaging, economically advantageous and mentally enlivening " it is good for you. I know because all my non-romantic relationships are all of these things, these are the results of love and romance is not required to get them. I am blessed. 

However regardless of who you love, you WILL become someone new, it happens, with each person you bond to, with or without romance. So "Who do I want to be?" should be the question you ask yourself not "Who do I want to want me, and what do I have to be to get them to?" 

Being strong requires self-love. Being strong in romance, well, I never figured it out, but I suspect it requires choosing a third personality that fits your ideas, beliefs and goals. 

Since I learned that quite late while I was "doing romance' I never asked the right question. Thus, I spent most of my life single, waiting for a divorce so I could try getting married again. Throughout my entanglements I have been many personalities. I have been traditional enough to run cowering to get his slippers, been bisexual, had open arrangements and monogamous commitments. I have been the matriarch, the submissive, the reject-or and the rejected. I have worn many faces as I married against my own true self and tried to become the woman they would want me to be. It never lasted because -- as it turns out -- I want to be " well" something unsexy and slightly intimidating. I want to be me. 

I love me in fact. I am proud of my many accomplishments and enjoy all eight of my children, even the ones who don't always enjoy me. (Stop rolling your eyes, they are not from my dipping into it with different daddies, I adopted most of them.) I live to love, just not to romance. In fact, every hat I willingly wear is motivated by love. 

That is what I discovered when I did ask the questions. That is when I admitted I don't like flowers, gifts, chocolates, or dating. I like working, playing, skill acquisition, and creating. I don't accept limitations and learn myself out of them. I also don't want a mate, though if it happens I guess I'll change my mind. What am I looking for? Nothing. What would entice me?: A beautiful third person. This understanding gives a whole new meaning to ménage a trois

And yes, I know that since I get my dopamine rush from so many other satisfying places in my life, because I am loved and love without libido distortions and projections of romance, I might always be available to work on Valentine's Day. Fortunately, my heart is in my work. Have a good one. 

Remember, keep your eye on the person you create. 

PS: If you would like to be considered for the position of spouse number six I don't care if you are male or female, but if you're skinny then I need you to be rich enough to buy me lots of lipo because I do hate to feel fat by comparison. Oh, and if possible I would like to be the prettiest one in the bed. And one more thing" NEVER tell me what to do and I will return the favor. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Autism Answer: Engage with intention. Teach with creativity. Live with love!

Engage with intention: When playing with your kids, or hanging with your friends, remember to be engaged. Be in the moment, and also have a goal. The goal can be a skill, or a comfortable laugh... but have one! Don't put too much pressure on getting what you're after--the joy lives in the playful process and connecting--but be intentional!

Teach with creativity: There are so many ways to teach our kids and ourselves. The ideas are limitless! When asking for a change in behavior, clear language, or just a little awareness, be creative. Don't be afraid of a new idea or a way of teaching that might look weird or seem cooky... explore it! Not only will it make teaching more fun and effective, but it will exercise parts of your soul that are too often brushed aside for seemingly more important things.

Live with love: Why not?? What are your other choices?? The world is crazy and confusing, whether or not you're autistic. But crazy and confusing has the potential to be what we decide it is! We can live with a fear of being used or hurt. We can live with a worry for how the world sees us, or doesn't see us. Or... we can put on our comfy pants and feel good! Find fun in the crazy and our unique rhythm in the chaos. Live with love and it will live with you!

Regardless of how you choose to live, remember that by being you are also showing. You are showing your children what being an adult looks like, you are showing the world how you want to be treated, and you are showing yourself how you want to experience the world. 

The cool think about showing is that you can choose to change what you show, and be intentional with how you choose to see, whenever you want! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers 

Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD
Showing and teaching.
It's beautiful!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Autism Answer: It's a Shay thing!

**A huge, loving, proud, slightly sad about the loss of little but mostly thrilled at the greatness of grown-up HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my darling Shay!! Today he turned sixteen!!**

He didn't speak till he was four. He was obsessed with water play and Thomas the train. He almost never wore clothes until he was school age. And to encourage that I explained why he'd have to wear them and we practiced the entire summer before school began. For the first two years of school there were many mornings where I would drive around the school's block, "only one time" until he felt comfortable joining his peers. He would growl and bark if you walked into the bathroom when he was using the toilet. His heart broke if he heard a hint of unkindness--toward himself or others-- in your voice, and the hurt on his face was all consuming. He walked on his toes and sucked on his fingers while poking the top of his lip (which he would always find a way to make sticky!) with the index finger of his free hand.

He didn't have a label, he was Shay. And now, when he says certain things or does certain things or imagines certain things, we all say, "That is such a Shay thing!"

So when he goes to school wearing the exact same clothes everyday, or stays up all night filling and labeling boxes with 'random cool things' he finds in the bottom of drawers and backs of closets, or refuses to get a haircut because he has a joke in his head he wants to show us that requires long hair, we all (including him!) smile and love that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by so many Shay things!!

So many spectacular Shay things!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton

Me and my darling Shay...
back when he was still only fifteen!
tee hee!!

Enjoy this video of Shay, dancing in the living room!!! Feel free to dance with us as we celebrate his sixteenth birthday!!! xoxo

Monday, February 3, 2014

Autism Answer: Open the Door, Get on the Floor... Everyone Walk Autism's Answers!

WARNING: This post is rated PG 13 for sexual content and far reaching answer finding! It is also based on true events!

When I was a teen I went through a promiscuous stage. But just before I did, before I'd even done more than kiss a boy heavily, a guy I knew sang these lyrics about me one day as I walked into class (to the tune of Walk The Dinosaur) "Open the door, get on the floor, everyone knows Tsara's a whore...". It was not my favorite moment.  Plenty of things flashed through my head. That he was right, that he was wrong, that everyone was looking at me and I should respond in a way they would see as smart and nice and funny and grown-up... but I couldn't figure out how, and so I just giggled and sat down. Immediately I assumed that all my classmates took my non-response as admitting to the accusation. And knowing high school teens, I'm sure most of them (if not all) did. A few months later I was doing more than kissing boys heavily. And for pretty much all the same types of reasons. Trying to seem smart, nice, grown-up... 

How the heck do my teenage frolics relate to autism?
Here's what that moment reminds me: When my autistic brother keeps eating butter I don't just shrug and say, "Guess he likes butter." I wonder (or my mom reminds me to wonder!) "What is it about the butter that he feels he needs? What does he GET out of eating butter? How can I help him get what he needs without eating all of the butter?" 

When I was fooling around with boys it wasn't useful to just think, "Guess Tsara likes sex." I had to ask myself why I kept finding myself afraid to say no to boys. Why flirting made me feel obligated. Why I was so afraid of not seeming "nice" that I put myself in the position of changing friend groups rather than just saying "no thank"' to men and boys when they would pull me to them. 

Also, did I start being with boys because of the label? I had not been promiscuous before the song, although he was picking up on the fact that I liked to flirt. What came first: the label or the libido? 

Because of the overflowing amounts of autism in our house growing up, my mom taught loudly the skill of believing with all of our hearts and souls in people, regardless of how they seem on the outside. She taught us to see behaviors as communication and clues. To engage with curiosity and acceptance, while offering suggestions for change. She helped us discover that the much healthier flax seed oil would give my brother the much needed oils and other benefits he was seeking from eating all of the butter.

This is a wonderful skill!! With it I was able to see myself and my choices clearly after only a short stint of being bad. I could see my flirting/fooling around habit as a symptom, a clue, and follow it to the cause! And although it took lots of years to learn how to be me comfortably, I always knew I could. 

And even more than that, I was always actively involved in the making of me

It was autism and its beautiful confusing symptoms and clues and answers and differences that opened my eyes to seeing my kindness, even when saying no. Often, especially when saying no!! 

I love seeing the world filled to bursting with mostly wonderful people doing interesting things for interesting reasons!!

So raise your coffee mugs and sing with me!! 

"Open the door, get on the floor... everyone walk Autism's Answers!"

Hugs, smiles, and love!!