Monday, March 31, 2014

Internet Event: Candlelight Vigil for Autistic Children Who Lost Their Lives After Wandering

I have four brothers and they were all autistic. We four teenage sisters would each get one brother buddy on outings, while mom kept a chronically head-counting eye on everyone distractedly directing the fun and festivities. 

Two of my brothers were wanderers--elopers--and one of the two was always finding a body of water to dive into. He must have found joy--or some other desired feeling-- in splashing frantically waiting for mom to save him. Miraculously, she was always able to save him. And the rest of the outing would continue, laughter and wet clothes included. 

My youngest brother (who was quite an escape artist!) was usually easy to find, his antics attracted screams and finger pointing galore. We just followed the freaked out strangers and there he was; too high up, too carefree, too dangerously trusting and interested in overly hot things. 

My point is, regardless of the truth that mom had brilliantly assigned a sister to a brother, the 1 to 1 ratio in our favor for safety, they were talented in their ability to lose us. It was scary, and a sigh of relief could be felt in the depths of our souls when we'd finally get to the car. All eight kids and one amazing and accomplished mom.

She had taken her children out and introduced them to the world, and introduced the world to them.

We went out often. Because the only way to parent with an eye on the future is to let go of fear and teach over and over and over and over and over...

And eloping certainly wasn't only an issue when on outings. Home was an ever changing creatively safe/closed-up kind of place. Locks, shoelaces, alarms, noisy doorknob decorations... whatever we could find was employed with a hope that we could keep family safe, while allowing freedom. Inviting friends over was fun for us teen girls, and we all got a kick out of explaining.

My brothers are all men now, and no longer wander. Well.... my youngest brother makes his living wandering our small Texas town with a lawn mower and willingness to clean a car or move some furniture, but it's no longer quite so dangerous. Largely because my mom believed in them and taught them the world.

But mostly, because we were lucky. 

Sadly, so sadly, many families--too many families--are not lucky.

Jill Smo of Yeah. Good Times. has created a beautiful and important event. An internet candlelight vigil in remembrance of those who were not so lucky.

"This event is not about placing blame or even to talk about solutions. The sole purpose of what the vigil was created this for is to simply remember the children who have died." ~Jill Smo
Please join us tomorrow, April 1st, in honoring those families. In honoring those children who were looking for something, needing something, dreaming something, and lost their lives in the course of it. Plaster your social media and blog posts with this image. Speak freely and honestly about it. Take some moments to reflect and remember. 

Check out the event on Facebook: Candlelight Vigil for Autistic Children Who Lost Their Lives After Wandering

And continue to introduce your autistic loved ones to the world. It's a kindness society is in honest need of. 

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

~~Jill invites you to take and share the image. Please do!! Or share blog posts about the event, check out your social media feeds and click SHARE on the image which I hope you'll see plenty of! Huge hugs!!~~

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Autism Answer: What Are You Used To?

When my husband and I were dating, he was consistently amazed at how accepting my mom and dad were. Whenever he'd dated a white woman before, the parents were horribly cruel. He was used to them blaming him for every hardship and never inviting him into their homes. So, by simply seeing him as an equal my parents seemed impressive and brave. 

When my brother would be greeted with happy smiles by my sons rather than, "What do you want, Uncle Rye?" his entire mood shifted to one of comfort and returned kindness. Because my brother had a habit of coming over only when he wanted something he'd gotten used to people steeling themselves for a request, and being less than excited about seeing him. But when we remembered not to assume and instead just be inviting, he'd often forget what it was he wanted in the first place. Because in truth whatever it was usually had everything to do with trying to feel happy, and our own joy had given him that.

When I wake my sons up on school days and they get ready for the day without trying to stay home, or trying to talk themselves out of trying to stay home, but instead just dress and brush and deodorize while chatting, I am proud of them. I'm used to Shay hiding under the covers and grumbling about needing just one more hour of sleep, and Declyn talking to me about why he should stay home and then talking to himself about why he shouldn't talk to me about staying home. So the days that my boys are comfortable about school in the mornings, I'm impressed and giddy!

When I go to the store with my brother, Dar, and his flicking fingers and random happy jumps and claps have nearby shoppers pulling their children closer and offering sad nods my way, I'm uncomfortable and confused. I'm used to beautiful smiles and waves from strangers, so when the world behaves with fear or pity, it stands out.

But guess what? I used to be used to shoppers acting uncomfortable and judgmental. So this new normal is fabulous! And it was very on purpose. My mom taught us to be open and comfortable and introduce ourselves to folks who were interested. She taught us to be an example of how to be so that the shoppers could take cues from us.

Because when the world behaves with acceptance and kindness, we are encouraged to go out more often, and since I am in the world I may as well start with me! 

Keep an eye on what you're used to, and feel free to take steps to change it when necessary. My husband has slowly gotten used to being accepted, and now expects it. My brother comes over more often just to hang out, and is now used to being greeted with happy hellos. My sons used to get up comfortably for school and now they don't, so I'm no longer used to simple and stress free mornings. Noticing this has encouraged me to take steps to discover what's different. Turns out, it's pretty much all about girls and unrequited love. So, I'm helping them through.... best I can!

My point is, take advantage of noticing what you're used to so that you can follow the clues when things are unusual, and you can celebrate when the thing you're used to is something wonderful and intentional! 

This weekend my boys and I will be dancing in the living room, watching movies, hiking with the dogs, and saying "we'll clean up in one hour" a lot. I can be pretty sure of that, because it's what we're used to. And we love it!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

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-two 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, and then stop staring.

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, because I've learned 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, feel 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, appear "normal". 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 still 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, fear based, judgmental, and drugged. 

But it is also beautifully littered with people who mean well, are loving and willing to allow for difference.

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!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Autism Answer: Teaching then Playing vs Teaching while Playing

There is an immense and important difference between teaching our kids and then rewarding with play vs playing with our kids to teach.
Showing our kids what we know and telling them to show us that they listened vs having fun together, taking advantage of and practicing skills during play, valuing connections and exploring possibilities as a team.
Telling them what to do and what to think in order to get a reward vs sharing what we believe we know and encouraging confident additions or arguments and creative ways to do it different.
Get to know me and what I've learned vs getting to know each other and learning to communicate comfortably.
When we choose to teach our children and then reward with play we are suggesting that learning and skill acquisition are work, and that work isn't the fun part.
However, when we play with our kids to teach we encourage a generation of passionate, connected, playful, confident people who discovered their skills and ideas alongside parents who saw innate value and offered guidance and wisdom.
Not only that, but playing with our kids is way more fun that telling them to calm down and comply. And it's way easier!! They want to play!! They may not want to play our games our way, and they may prefer quiet stimmy games or noisy furniture bouncing games or focused perseverative interest games, but they want to play.
Let them show us the game, while we encourage the lessons.
Teaching is something we are always doing. When we do it while we play it's far more effective.... and fun!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton
International mental health specialist Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD
working hard teaching language and social skills and pattern recognition.
Looks like fun, huh?
It is!!!

~~Wanna see how beautiful and effective teaching while playing is? Have a look at the first video on this page! ~~

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Autism Answer: Top Of The List!

My friend has a step dad that was never good to her. In fact, he was pretty bad. A few days ago he had a stroke and is struggling. He's going to survive, but it may be years before he's like his old self, if ever. 

So, my friend got in the car and drove from her home in Colorado to her mom's home in central Texas, an eighteen hour drive. She has been at her mom's side, who's been mostly at her step-dad's side, since arriving. Today she confided. "I'm worried that I'm a bad person. I'm here for my mom, I'm concerned for my mom, I'm thinking about how I can help my mom. My step-dad isn't top of my list, but he's the one that's sick."

I suggested she let go of her guilt. "Your step-dad will be top of the list for the people that he earned it from. He never earned it from you, but your mom did. Besides, I'm sure your step-dad wants someone to be there for your mom. So, it's something that you're doing for him as well."

She seemed to feel better.

And I admitted quietly to myself that I was there for my friend. She's top of my list. 

As I traveled with my friend, along with her sisters and her mom, to the hospital so that I could babysit the wildly adorable nieces and nephews, leaving my own children and responsibilities to others who love me, I knew I was doing it for my friend. Not for her mom, not for her sisters, and not for her step-dad, though they are in my heart, I was doing it (gladly!) for her. 

One of the gifts autism has given me is a willingness to be honest about my list. I reflect, I pay attention to communication and love that is offered to me in various forms and creative ways, I make sure to share my own love and communication comfortably and with an excitement about going above and beyond when I can, and I let go of the guilt when I know that I can't.

I have been gifted with enough on my plate, so it doesn't seem necessary to offer my time and commitment to those who haven't earned it from me. I trust and believe in their ability to earn it elsewhere.

We can't do everything for everyone, and it's pretty self important of us to think we should! Instead, believe in everyone and know that they are on the top of someone's list, or know that they can be.

Supporting people means going out of our way and exhausting our talents, so don't feel guilty when you only give that kind of support to the folks that are top of your list. 

And forever be open minded and honest about who deserves to be up there! 

People support us in many different ways, don't forget to see it when a friend or loved one exhausts their talents and goes out of their way for you often, even when it's a little harder to see. A gift is a gift, some you must unwrap yourself.

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

My friend and I.
Hanging out in Colorado!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Autism Answer: Read Between The Lines~ A Guest Post By Jory Shelton

It's spring, and my son is blossoming! Well, all of my sons are blossoming, but my oldest has written today's guest post, so let's look at him! 

His post is about communication. Growing up with autistic uncles, brothers, and friends--it's not surprising that he's got ideas and thoughts growing organically in regards to this topic. It's fertile ground indeed! 

Season after season we grow and change and evolve. My son--in his time and season--is looking fabulous from where I sit. From my time and season. 

Happy Spring!! 
and Happy Reading!!
~Tsara Shelton

Read Between Lines
By: Jory Shelton

When I was a boy I believed in many things. I thought Santa was real, I thought I would always love Power Rangers, and I thought that the hazard button on the car would turn it into a plane. 

One thing that I have found most interesting among all of the sort-of silly things I believed as a child was my belief that what people said is what they meant. 

I am twenty now, and I still find the whole idea of saying something while implying something else--or meaning another thing entirely--incredibly fascinating. From the simple, "I'll be there soon" when it turns out to be four hours, to the more complex, "I love you". 

Life just seems so unnecessarily complex sometimes.

I'm writing this right now because I'm single, bored, and hungry for a good story that really strikes my fancy. I have been living day to day dreaming of a world where I can get a job, do great things, make good money, and have a family to support. As I sit here thinking, like I do most days, about why I don't have these things going for me just yet I ponder; if people were to mean what they say, then I would have all of these things. You know, if that man who stopped me on the street about a job that paid twenty dollars an hour had really meant what he was dishing out, and if that pop-up on my computer actually meant that I won one hundred thousand dollars.... and then there is love. Romantic love, to me, is one of the single hardest subjects to justify. Saying something about a job is one thing, but putting someone's heart and soul on the line for something that no one can be absolutely sure of, now that just seems crazy. 

See, the subject of this inquiry, this questioning quest, is maybe to you a simple, "why do we say something that we just flat out are not sure of?" Maybe that's what it is to me too. But here's what I have learned through living, breathing, and wondering. 

People say many things, often we just say something to say something. Perhaps if words only came with struggle, as they do for my uncle, we would be more selective and real, as it is with my uncle. But most of us use words too easily and there isn't always a real belief to back up our words. So anytime to you talk to someone just remember that they are (almost always) equally as sure about what they're saying as you are about what you're saying. Everyone is on the same page, some people just don't accept that. 

We are all equal in every way and in every word, believe that. 

The Author: Jory Shelton
Communicating with words
Learning to mean what he says,
and listening with a similar hope. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Autism Answers: The Family Reunion

Today was my husband's family's yearly reunion. It is also my step-daughter's forty-fourth birthday, and my gift to her was wrapped in a lecture.
You see, she told me today that she's pregnant, and already a few months along. She hadn't said anything to me or her dad before today because she's still feeling confused, uncertain, and scared. She wasn't ready to talk about it.
I congratulated her on the pregnancy, I gave her a hug, and we all climbed into the van headed to the reunion. Then I did my first deed as a grandma to this new little one. Turning in my seat I looked at my step-daughter and said with comfortable strength, "You've got to stop drinking. For the baby, you just have to."
"I like the taste of beer....," my step-daughter huffed.
"It doesn't matter. You already know my adopted brothers have lived their whole lives struggling with disabilities, many that could have been avoided if their birth mom had quit drinking for the nine months she was pregnant with each one. It's only nine months for you, but it's your child's whole life."
"Don't you know I've tried, mom?" my step-daughter finally made eye contact with me. "It's hard. My boyfriend is so mean, he talks to me like I'm nothing, he wants me to kick my daughter out of the house (she's also pregnant). When I drink, I can forget."
"These are all reasons. But you can make them be reasons for something different, something besides drinking. They can be the reason you leave him, the baby can be the reason you stop drinking and keep your job this time. They can be the reason you go to a women's shelter, or get support elsewhere. Maybe start accepting it from us. There are reasons for everything, sweetie, but you decide what they're for. You are in charge, not the reasons."
My step-daughter was quiet and reflective. I'll admit, she had also already been drinking.
Just as we were getting to my sister-in-law's house--where the reunion was taking place--my step-daughter reached forward from the seat behind mine and rubbed my arm. As we piled out of the van, she held me tight and whispered, "I'm so glad you're here mom. Thank-you. A new beginning. I know it...."
She had unwrapped her gift.
My much older than me husband, my slightly older than me step-daughter, and our mismatched youngest sons went in to join the rest of our family. We are not typical, but we are family.
The baby in my step-daughter's belly was my reason for speaking up with kindness and strength. There are so many other things that baby could be my reason for, but kindness and strength seem right to me.
Be sure to insist that your reasons lead you to something beautiful, comfortable, and strong.
I truly hope my step-daughter does the same.
I truly hope she holds onto the gift.
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton

My step-daughter and my two youngest sons!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Autism Answer: Thinking with Albert Einstein

~Happy 135th Birthday Albert Einstein!~

I love reading about and learning from Albert Einstein. Admittedly, the math and science stuff is often above my head, so when I learn from him it's with my own limited understanding. And my own not so limited desire to find a meaning I like!

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite Einstein quotes today--his birthday-- perhaps while eating Pi! Giggle! They reveal a bit of who he was, who I am, and how I like to understand the world! 

Here are a few:

"Any man who can drive safely while kissing a woman is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves."

"A question that sometimes drives me hazy: Am I or the others crazy?"

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

"When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you are sitting on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity."

"Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid."

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."

"Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value."

These are just some of my faves, and ones that I think are useful for us loving autism. Feel free to celebrate with me by adding some of your own!! 

Oh, ya. One more thing I adore about Einstein. Because of him I can walk around without ever brushing my hair and imagine that it's my genius showing, not my laziness! Tee hee!!!

Happy Pi Day, 
and happy birthday Albert Einstein! 
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Autism Answer: At The End Of The Day~ Acceptance

Shay and I were chatting late last night. He'd been writing, working on his movie script, and though it was two in the morning his conversation was wide awake! So, sleepy as I was, I decided to be part of and enjoy his creative energy wind-down. 

As he started to talk more about his real high school life and less about his imagined one (though both are absolutely relevant, I wrote a movie about it long ago!) I knew our late night idea and experience sharing was coming to a close.

But not before he offered me this delicious dialogue. 

"The other day I got a tiny heart uplifting because of a small compliment." Shay was smiling shyly as he spoke. "My friend and I, who are both kind of chubby and both kind of weird and both really good at thinking on our feet, were hanging out between classes when another one of our friends came over to hang with us. As soon as he came up to us I asked if he'd ever noticed how the same my friend and I are. He said 'ya, you're both really cool.' That made me feel good, mom."

At the end of the day, we all like to be accepted. 

In the middle of the night, we all like to be accepted too! 

By our moms, who are happy to hang out all night and listen to our minds.
By our peers, who say comfortably that in a nutshell--we are cool! 
By our teachers, neighbors, employers, and cousins, who slow down to understand our true meaning or take time to help us help ourselves...

Work, play, grow, hold onto some values and rethink others, connect, reflect... and always, at the end of the day, accept!

And when you've forgotten to accept, reflect and accept again! You deserve acceptance from yourself too!

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

Random Addition: Accepting doesn't mean allowing others to be cruel, hurt, stranded, or abusive. Accepting doesn't even mean you have to adore and be friends with everyone... on the contrary! Accepting is taking the time to help, teach, say no, be clear about boundaries, explain, share, show! Believing in another persons right to discover their own voice, beliefs, and style, without needing it to be the same as--or even compatible with-- your own.   

"Acceptance doesn't mean not helping." ~Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Autism Answer: The Pursuit of "Meaningful Work"

Author's note: So, this post was inspired after I kept trying to comment on this other post, The Problem With Meaningful Work, by Bassam Tarazi. My comment kept disappearing, and I decided instead to write something I could share here with you! xoxo

When I was young I believed that I (and others) should only pursue "meaningful work"... and that any job or volunteering I did should always be part of an attempt to "do good" in the world, or "make a difference".

Growing up I watched my mom always, always, always include inspiration, behavior insights, creative ideas, honest revelations, and even brain science with a message into everything she did. Everything. And so I believed that whatever I did with my life would only be worthwhile if it was "important" and "inspiring".

Then, I grew-up. And I was introduced to reality. 

I found myself needing to pay bills, find housing, make supper. I watched my brothers struggle to hold onto any job, let alone a "meaningful" one. I worked with mom to find new and creative ways to teach my most disabled brother how to not eat all of the butter in every building we entered, and how to talk, and how to take a fair share of the food--not how to find a meaningful job. I met and married a man who spent his days working on cars, or maintaining machinery at a glass factory, and no matter how many times I asked if his work felt meaningful, he answered honestly and without hesitation,"Yes."

So now I still believe that I should pursue "meaningful work". But I also understand that meaningful work is something different for everyone, that it has no specific truth or guidelines.

My sister's meaningful work includes financial success and running a business with her husband, donating to causes, being able to afford classes and educational experiences for her daughters and taking comfortable, quality time talking deeply and honestly with them. My meaningful work includes helping my husband move cars and car parts, writing ideas and inspired thoughts down and then publishing for a world I hope to learn and connect with, revealing personal vulnerabilities and mistakes as a reminder to always grow and accept, being an active and available listener for my sons when they need to bounce ideas or heartbreak hurts around, looking for lessons and support. My sister and I are both doing different "meaningful work"... but we are both doing it!

There really is no specific or right definition of "meaningful work". So I went ahead and made one up for myself!

"Meaningful Work encourages you to discover and explore your ideas, talents, and beliefs. It is something that helps you feel and live your own value with such abundance that it can't help but spill over onto anyone connected to you!!" ~ME

I like my definition, because it's inclusive. No matter who you are, regardless of race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, legal status, health, educational background, physical appearance, or financial independence and/or success, you can pursue meaningful work! 

Both you and the world will be so glad you did!

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

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Autism Answer: My Son, The Intense One

I guess I could always see it. His intense struggle for some sort of personal comfort by way of attempting to control the outside world.  The way he pushed girls at playgrounds, for no reason other than liking them differently, which made him feel uncomfortable. Seeing him attack anyone who would dare suggest that his baby brother wasn’t perfect, proving that possibly others didn’t see his brother, hence the world, the way he did. Watching him experience all-encompassing and physical pain when his older brother would boss and bully him; hearing him voice a desire to be seen by his big brother the way he saw himself. When he would bully his somewhat “strange” younger brother, wanting only for him to be predictable and normal. I could literally see my son try to feel his edges and know himself by trying to force the world to make sense—his way.

What I didn’t begin to worry about until it came vomiting up to our front door after hours of being who-knows-where and ignoring my desperate phone calls, was how easy it could be for my son to reach out and drink, smoke, inject, or copulate as a way to forget his intense need to see a world of black and white; fair and un-fair. How easy it could be for him to hide himself, as a way to forget his intense need to find himself.

His intense need to know exactly who it is he should be. To see how being himself could hopefully help, and at least effect, this world.

Trying to guide my son through the challenges, while keeping an open line of communication for my teachings-- while remaining always willing to learn from him-- was frightening. I often found myself struggling to find my own edges so I’d know how and who to be. Much like my teenage son was doing!

I have angrily sent him to bed when he came home drunk, took away his cell phone (so that he couldn’t call friends to brag about his adventures, risking solidifying a reputation that he might then feel obligated to fulfill) then lovingly wiped the vomit off his cheeks. I have enforced a rule about open doors when hanging with his dates, walked in often to remind them that a parent is home, while buying condoms and making sure he understood how and why to use them. I have confronted him about being high, taken away a little freedom and then had passionate conversations with him regarding both our opinions on why it’s important to make choices intentionally and with information. And I gave him information! About drugs, sex, and alcohol. About health and thinking freely for the good of community and family, but always as yourself.

Our entire house was consistently on the brink of confusion and fear when he was in his first very serious relationship. As matches his desire to know his role and feel kind and helpful, he fell in love with a very beautiful and troubled girl. Having been molested and raped by family, surrounded by drugs and arguing, chosen second by her mother to men who would beat and otherwise harm, she needed someone who would treat her well and love her first. My son was happy to be that for her. 

I however, having grown up with more support than his girlfriend but with similar events, was fully aware from the beginning that it would be my son’s job (and hence mine to teach and encourage!) to be loving and understanding, but mostly strong and willing to say no. The drinking and drugs, the prejudiced and rape, the guns, fears, and weaknesses that surrounded his girl would surround him too. And they would try, also, to invade our home.

My son struggled and cried. He was always there for her and kind to her family, while feeling confused himself about how exactly to be the right type of man. The right type of kind. These were the people his girl called family, but they were also the people who were hurting her the hardest. The drugs and alcohol that he had already taken advantage of before, were consistently there offering an escape from caring. An escape from needing to be strong and right and good.

My son was amazing. He chose to be himself. He chose to say no without prejudiced or judgment, but with conviction. Because of him his girl had the chance to see what it looks like to choose love and self. She had many moments—possibly more than ever before in her life—of knowing she was loved and always supported, without judgment. She was able to talk about herself in ways that began to include strength. Not the fighting against kind, but the kind that comes from knowing who you are and valuing it.

My son and his girl didn’t stay together, I don’t think they believed they would. He moved away and she stayed home, with her family. But they changed each other, in a beautiful way. As a mom (who was exhausted, afraid and proud during the entire relationship!) I saw him blossom and come to understand, invent, and appreciate himself more in that year than ever before.

As a mom I could delight in the understanding that he has always been very much himself.  When he was little and pushing little girls, when he was attacking attackers and calling himself names for being a bully or for allowing himself to be bullied, he was always being the guy who is searching for self, hoping for strength, and trying to control his world. As a youngster, knowing what that is can be extremely and painfully confusing.

As a man, it also is. But as a mom I am thrilled to see him figuring it all out with kind confidence and intense passion. He’s not done growing. He’s still tempted to quit and cry and throw up his hands in defeat when he feels lost in a sea of hormones, stress, and confusion from a world that doesn’t always choose his version of kind. But he’s so far down the comfortable path, I can’t imagine he’ll turn back now.

As a mom, I truly believe that about him. 

Not only because I need to, but because he’s made believing in him very easy. 

My son and the lovely lady!

# # #

Author's note: Last year my son asked if I would write a piece about his teenage struggles, and what they were like from my point of view. Specifically he wanted me to talk about this time period. He and a friend are working on a film, and they want it to be "real". They want teenagers to talk candidly about life and relationships, and they want the parents to share honestly as well. I wrote this and nervously offered it to him. My son wanted truth, but what is it like to read about yourself from your mom's heart and hopes? Well.... he loved it! He was moved and said,"I always knew you understood me mom. And that you were there for me. Always. Thanks." I accepted his kind appreciation, but in truth it is I who was gifted in this telling. My son is amazing, and "real", and by telling his story I was offered a chance to relive it!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Autism Answer: Discussing and Accepting~It Starts At Home

ME: Treat the world the way you want to be treated. 

ONE OF MY SONS: Treat the world the way it treats you.

MY HUSBAND: Keep a watchful eye on the world, it's often trying to take advantage.


In my home, there are quite a few different underlying beliefs regarding how we engage with the world. It makes for some heated and passionate discussions indeed!!

We want to prove ourselves right. We point to proof, while another loved one points to their own contradicting proof. We explain, make up analogies, weave beautiful similes and metaphors... often to be met with equally beautiful similes or metaphors that illustrate a different view.

Sometimes we want to prove ourselves right with something close to desperation! I may want my husband to parent more like me--because our children's futures are being shaped. My son may want me to see his point of view as the right way to be, because he wants me to be proud of him when I would rather teach a new reaction to stimulus.

But underneath everything, deep down where our truth lives and grows, we respect a world of difference and believe in the possibility of living peacefully within it--at least, that's what I'm trying to make my family believe in! tee hee! We respect each other and learn from each other and find new ways to express ourselves and our expectations and our hopes.

Always, we are gifted with the ability to see such differing views as valuable. We accept the personal nature of beliefs, and open our eyes to a world that should be encouraged to discover their own ideas and truths.

MY FAMILY: Treat the world the way you feel good treating the world so that you continue to grow into a comfortable and pro-active you. And allow the world to (mostly) do the same.

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

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Autism Answer: Yesterday

Come with me to yesterday.

My hubby and I are running around, juggling issues, sharing ideas, tossing suggestions, trying to be proactive about logistical things and financial troubles and transportation deficits. I've got to drive our limping vehicle one place, he's gotta get a ride from a guy he knows to another place... as we go our separate ways I turn to tell him I love him, but his eyes are on the ground, his mind is elsewhere, and he leaves me hanging. No biggie, I get it!

Moments later he phones me. "Where are you?" he asks. I tell him that I'm actually only two cars behind him and the guy he's riding with. "Please pull over." he says.

I'm a little worried. We've got a lot going on. What did we miss? What did we mess up? Who did we forget?

I see the car he's in pull over ahead of me, I watch him hop out of the passenger seat and head toward me, shaking his head, looking disappointed. He climbs in the van beside me, and looks at me, and lifts his oil stained hat high on his head. His big, thick, black, rough, mechanic hands reach for my small, white, son snuggling, nail bitten ones. "I'm sorry about that, I shouldn't have just walked away." he says, almost quietly. Then he leans over and kisses me.

It's not necessary to be perfect, present, or the best--not all the time.

It is, however, beautiful to be gracious, self aware, and loving. 

We all get distracted or overwhelmed; moms, dads, husbands, wives, friends, brothers, sisters, teachers, uncles, aunts and more. We all have those moments, those days, those weeks....

But if we remember not to let our distracted selves become our habitual selves, and if we remember to reach out and connect when we feel that we're drifting or forgetting, then we are right. We are honest. We are beautifully complete.

We are all innately beautiful.

Revealing our reasons and comfortably humbling ourselves to loved ones is one way let that beauty shine!!

In that moment yesterday, with my husband, I fell even more in love with him and I felt even more lovable myself. 

So please, don't be afraid to let it shine!!

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