Sunday, May 31, 2015

Autism Answer: Celebrating Declyn

When I ask Declyn what he wants for his birthday he always says the same things. "I don't need anything." "It's about the heart, not presents." "Let's spend time together, don't spend money." "I want everyone to be happy for my birthday." Stuff like that. When I asked him that same question a couple of days ago he added, "It's a day to celebrate me, not buy me things."

So today, on Declyn's fifteenth birthday, I've gathered a few short Facebook posts (from the past year) about my youngest boy! I hope you'll join me as we celebrate him!!!

ME: Don't worry about it, Declyn. That's normal at your age. 

DECLYN: Mom, did you just call me normal!?

ME: Oops! Sorry!

We had a bit of a giggle.

DECLYN: Our family wouldn't know what to do with normal. 

ME: You might be right. We'd probably stand there stunned, and be like, 'I dunno. Poke it with a stick.'...

We had a bit of a bigger giggle.

Then, Shay walked in. 

SHAY: Hey you guys, it's not healthy for anyone to laugh at anyone. (My sixteen year old looked at us, disappointed.) And anyway, if we met someone normal Dramma (his grandma, my mom) would just adopt them so she could help them heal. 

We had a big hearty delicious coffee spewing belly jiggling laugh!

Happy Saturday friends!!!!
Hugs, smiles, and love!


This morning my youngest son was playing with my ponytail and saying, "Mom, sometimes I want things that I just can't have."

I was kind of annoyed, because I had a lot of work to do and I was CERTAIN that he was about to say something about wishing I would go to the store for him. My youngest son has a bit of a passive/aggressive side! I waited a sec, took a breath (breathing in comfort, breathing out annoyance) and asked him to tell me what he had in mind. What was he was wanting that he just couldn't have? 

"You know, like I want Canadian candy-bars and Grandpa. But I can't have them."

I'm so glad I took that breath. For his sake. 

Then, I took one more. For mine.

Hugs, smiles, and love!


"Darn! I look good today." ~My Son, Just Before School
He was right, too!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!


"I can't really go out with my girlfriend anymore because her parents are a little bit racist. I'm feeling sad." 

My son said this to me today. I felt sad too. 

And then I remembered to go into the world and continue to insist on change and acceptance. I remembered to get busy exploring ways to do this, and enjoying conversation with my son about how we hope the world will evolve. 

Because my son is better than perfect, and his girlfriend will be missing out on some serious wonderful. 

Also, I don't want us to feel sad.
Hugs, smiles, and love!!


I invite you to "LIKE" our Facebook Page, Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton.

There I continue to share stories, insights, and updates from all of my sons, and all of my fabulous family members!!

Happy birthday darling Declyn!!!!!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

 Singing "Sober" by P!NK with Declyn!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Autism Answer: Spend an Hour with My Dad on his Birthday!

Today is my dad's birthday. 

He died five years ago, but not before my mom gathered family together and found volunteers (some with autism, some with bi-polar disorder, and some--my dad--dying of cancer) to film the pilot episode of Living with Lynette. A show where my brothers played their quirky selves, and my dad played himself, and my mom played herself, and we all played together for enormous and gorgeous reasons. 

Living with Lynette-- Written, directed and performed by brain expert Lynette Louise, The Brain Broad this is a comedy/movie pilot for a webseries. Just as Lynette specializes in autism so does this comedy highlight autism in its core cast members. The intention for this very funny pilot is to create a special membership site that invites people to send in clips of their special needs loved one in order to be randomly selected to be on the show. If this evolves as intended it will grow into an improvised webseries involving all levels from severely challenged to high functioning individuals. This is a comedy based on Lynette's life and everyone involved impressively 'acted' their role which was based on their actual disability. So though they actually have these challenges their performance was a work of fiction. However, the gentleman who died of cancer really did. If you would like to contribute or buy a DVD or read more about Lynette and her work go to
This was my mom's beautiful way of giving my dad the gift of forever. Of giving all of us the gift of dad, forever. 

Through the magic of mom (which those of us who have Lived with Lynette sort of take for granted!) people with talent and a desire to give came together to film this pilot episode on a budget that is unheard of. Most of the people, crew and talent alike, have a mental health issue. One thing they desire and know the power of--the power when it is offered and the painful power of it's absence-- is support. So they stepped up. Mom pulled it off, because even though my dad had never been there for her, and rarely for us, he was there for his grand-kids. He was (eventually) there for my brother, Dar. 

He was there for us now, and he was dying.  So my mom produced the show where he could play the role of himself; the himself he was proud to have finally become. 

And being completely congruent with the spirit of my dad, the show is smart and hilarious!!!! 

I invite you, with all of my heart, to watch this show with me. Celebrate life, celebrate difference, and get comfortable with "wacky" while we all, if only for an hour, live with Lynette!!!!

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

Me and my dad.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Autism Answer: The Flower Project

My youngest son turned in his flower project today. For decades every ninth grader in our small town (even my best friend remembers this from her own ninth grade here) has had to turn in The Flower Project. 

The Flower Project: Explore and discover and pick and press sixty different Texas wildflowers. Record the date you picked the flower and put it in a photo album along with a tag naming it. This is for a huge portion of the last semester's Biology grade. 

I've helped three of my four sons with The Flower Project. My oldest son moved to California at the beginning of ninth grade so he didn't have the project. I'll admit, I was happy about that. It's a challenging project! Sixty different flowers is a lot of flowers! 

And yet, I'll grudgingly admit, my boys and I have learned a few things while working on The Flower Project. 

First, holy moley Texas has a lot of gorgeous wildflowers! I mean.... seriously!! 

Second, when you come across a large grouping of yellow flowers that look the same-- take a closer look. True, many of them are the same, but there are groupings of different yellow flowers as well. Now, look closer. There are tiny red ones and itty bitty fluffy purple ones! Oh, my! Look even closer.... see that orange speck? See that it has petals? It's another flower! Although it's true that you've found a group of mostly the same yellow flower, if you take time to peek and prod you'll see that within it are other friends. Many similar in appearance and others not at all the same! And now....

Third, move onto another grouping of flowers. These ones are blue and seem to want to take over an entire field. But, wait! What do we see here? All kinds of completely new flowers--white, orange, yellow, and pink--that didn't even exist only two miles away in the yellow flower patch! Once again we are treated to an entirely new neighborhood of flowers living together. Oops! Don't disturb that bee! And ... yikes!! We just saw a copperhead snake! It would seem that our neighborhood of flowers live in collaboration with creatures that sort of scare us. That's okay because we can accept the danger of the copperhead and appreciate it's important existence while we step nervously back, heading toward the relative safety of the country road. 

Fourth, while we walk in nature and listen to its sounds, while we take in its scents and breathe in its freshness, we waken and excite new sides to ourselves and our children. Sometimes the new side is silent. Sometimes it's vocal. Sometimes it hums and moves with more confidence, and sometimes it pulls forth a quieter grace. Always, it's nice to know this part of ourselves for a bit. 

Fifth, when we think we've found all of the flowers we possibly can, though it's nowhere near sixty different kinds, we look again a few weeks later. Oh my! It's all different now! Some of our yellow and red flowered friends are still here, and some have gone away, but now we are greeted with brand new purple and pink and orange and white flowers! And now we also remember to be careful so we don't disturb the copperheads. They live there too, and they can kill us. Though they have better things to do and we'd like to leave them to it. We're seasoned explorers now and have communicated an understanding with our dangerous new friends. We didn't write up a contract exactly, or talk to each other with words, but we communicated our needs and have an unspoken agreement. We don't intend to hurt each other.

Sixth, although the work of pressing and labeling and learning about each flower seems tedious, it's also interesting. We learn a bit about when we can go find that elusive red flower we've been looking for, and where we'll most likely find it. We feel surprised to learn that it's the tedious work that can often bring enlightenment to us as flower finders, but also to others who haven't had time to find flowers. To people who are not in the business of doing The Flower Project. Without the labeling and pressing and studying, we would have little to show them. There is suddenly value in taking the time to do the tedious work. Because, we want to share what we know. 

Seventh, like the flowers we've found we are more beautiful and interesting when we surround ourselves with diversity. We blossom at times and let our friends blossom at other times and always we are all equally part of the same connected thing. The Community. The World. The Universe.

Eighth, even though I've been part of The Flower Project for a few years now I still don't know or remember or care what the names of the flowers are. It's enough for me to see and know and learn that there are so many different kinds and colors. But some people (including one of my sons) love to know the names and habits of the individual flower families. And in this way, we are different and good for each other. I'm nourished and he is nourished and we're all nourished in different ways. 

Much like the flowers we're studying. 

My youngest son handed in his flower project today, and it's the last one we'll do. I'm mostly relieved. It's a lot of work and worth a huge chunk of the biology grade. It's nice to have it over with! 

But, also, we've gotten a lot of lovely things from The Flower Project. 

And so, though I'm glad to never do it again, I'm also glad to know that ninth graders will continue with this lovely tradition. 

Thanks in part to The Flower Project, for the rest of my life I will take time to peek at and appreciate and learn from the flowers!

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

I found these folks hanging around our yard. I guess they like it here!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Autism Answer: The Power of "What If...?" (for Writers and Parents)

Author's note: This post grew out of a comment I made on THIS blog post titled "What if?" by Jack Fitzgerald, an author and writer of screenplays that I follow. In invite you to have a peek!

I'm a mom and a writer. 

I'm other things too, of course, but these are kinda my favorite. 

In my parenting role I still sometimes shy away from "What if...?". There is responsibility hinted at in the phrase and I am uncommonly uncomfortable with responsibility. Luckily, for me and my siblings and all of our children, my mom is the queen of "What if...?" She uses it wisely and recognizes its power. So even though I'm tempted to shy away I've grown gifted--though not as gifted as mom!--in the use of "What if...?" 

"What if my son squishes my cheeks because he's seeking a sensory sensation that I can give him in a less intrusive way?" or "What if my brother is hitting his thigh because he feels numb and needs help with circulation?" or "What if those sounds my brother makes are words and he's trying with all of his heart to have his ideas heard?" These are a few examples of important and healthy "What if...?"s.

Of course, "What if my daughter is autistic because I didn't breastfeed?" or "What if I didn't have such a weird mom and I'd had a normal childhood with less poverty?" or "What if I could just go to the store without everyone staring at me or avoiding me out of misplaced fear?" These are a few examples of more dangerous "What if...?"s. They are not valueless but need to be explored with extreme caution. 

As a parent and a writer, all "What if...?"s can be healthy, but we have to insist on using them in healthy ways. In parenting, my mom taught me the never-ending value of asking our "What if...?"s carefully and with an eye on taking kind action. It's made so many wonderful and important differences in our lives!! 

As a writer I can be a little less careful. In fact, it's a good idea to follow some dangerous "What if...?"s so that I can explore their potential in a world of my own making without ever manifesting it where lives are lived more concretely. 

But, there is still power. And where there is power, there is danger. So when following and creating "What if...?"s, even in writing, we still have a responsibility to be intentional. 

Many years ago I was on a long drive and a movie idea manifested for me. While my small sons sang and played and fought in the back seat I enjoyed my usual habit of peeking in passing cars, wondering where the other travelers were going and why. Then (with a touch of wistfulness for a life unencumbered) I wondered, “What if I could just live alone on the road and imagine all the lives I want to live?”

A few nights later I put my boys to bed and sat up writing Carhopping.

Most of the lives the Hitchhiker in my movie imagines are, not surprisingly, variations of my own. Things I’d experienced or people I’d once wanted to be. What began as a neat idea for a movie turned into an important exercise for me. And in my writing, bad things happen. People hurt each other. I explore the hurt and find answers for healing it. I encouraged myself to think dangerous "What if...?"s and I even put one of my characters in a situation I thought I couldn't imagine her getting out of. 

Indeed, in my first draft she gave up. She killed herself. But soon, she gave me a better solution for herself and I was amazed! My dangerous "What if...?" taught me that somewhere down deep, there is always an answer! Giving up is never the only option!

Following those "What if...?"s began a gorgeous addiction to writing! 

Reading is a wonderful way to know ourselves. By listening to our thoughts and reactions as we imagine a life different from our own. But writing is a way to know and to create! To ask “What if...?” and then to discover answers. And while writing we are reminded that there are always so many answers–not right or wrong answers so much as, simply, answers. Choices. Ideas. Twists. Possibilities.

There are an infinite number of possibilities available when we wonder, “What if….?”!!

As parents, it's a powerful tool. We must be intentional and kind and action oriented and hopeful and loving when we ask "What if...?" When we do, when we are, as my mom taught me over and over--miracles can be made

In other areas of our lives we can be a bit freer with our "What if...?"s Though, they are still powerful! So we still need to be intentional and loving while we dive deeper into danger. 

I’m going to be careful. I find the "What if...?" world of writing addicting and delicious. “What if…” I get lost in the world of possibilities and can’t find my way home? But wait, “What if…” my home is the possibilities? Much like the Hitchhiker in my movie learns about himself, perhaps the feelings and memories I create with my imagination are my true home??

The "What if...?" game is powerful. 

Even if it can be a little bit dangerous. 

And now I'm wondering, "What if... I cleaned my kitchen? Would I finally discover the source of that strange and not-so-nice smell?"

I think I'll explore that "What if...?" Although, the source of the smell could be dangerous and is most certainly gross. Seriously, I think something died behind my stove. 

"What if.... my husband checks it out for me?" Oooohhhh.... I'm liking the "What if...?" game even more now! tee hee! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
"What if.... four brothers sneak off to a party in the woods when mom leaves the oldest babysitting?" The Mice will Play... title (for now) of the book I'm working on!

("What if... you share this blog post with your friends? Giggle! )

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Autism Answer: A Series of Choices

MY SON: My thoughts are confusing me today. I don't know how to feel about them. It's a little bit sad I think. 

ME: (busy working and only half listening) Hmmmmm.... how do you feel about that?

MY SON: Seriously? I just told you I don't know how I feel. 

ME: Hmmmm... I see. Have you brushed your teeth today?

MY SON: Seriously?

My son leaves the room and I make a mental note to listen better. You know, after I'm finished with the work I'm working on. Then a moment later my son returns wearing shoes.

MY SON: I think I'll go see if dad needs some help outside. 

ME: (turning away from my computer so I'll actually be present) That's a good idea. You're such a nice guy! And smart too!

MY SON: Not really. I just want to do something to forget about my thoughts being confusing. 

ME: Ya, I know. And you chose going outside to offer your dad a helping hand. You chose doing something useful and physical. That's nice and smart! Don't devalue your choices just because you felt compelled to make them. Those are still nice and smart choices that you chose to make!

MY SON: (smiling and opening the door, speaking up over the sound of my husband's outside tools) You're weird mom! I love you! 

I watched him head out the door and turned back to my computer. I almost felt bad for having been distracted when he first came to talk to me. But then I realized that had I not been distracted he may not have chosen to step outside and help his dad. So, I chose not to feel bad!

Huh! Neat!

"Life is a series of choices." Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad

Smart woman!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

My son working outside with his dad. Good choice!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Autism Answer: The Mess In His Brain

My seventeen year old son, Shay, finally got the vampire teeth he ordered. As he sat reading the instructions on how to customize them so that they'd snap off and on easily, and fit comfortable, he chatted with me about all the reasons he wanted the teeth. 

The stories and explanations included all kinds of characters from all sorts of realms and dimensions in time and space. 

Eventually, I interrupted him. 

ME: Man, I wish I could spend time in your brain! It's gotta be fantastical in there!

SHAY: Oh, no, mom. You couldn't handle it in there. You know what it's like? It's like somebody went in and made a huge mess, knocked everything over, broke stuff, dumped trash, and just had a huge tantrum. Then it's left to me to clean up the mess, figure out where everything goes. I get side tracked easy and it takes a long time but just when I think I'm getting it figured out, bam! Here comes the mess maker! Things get thrown around and broken all over again. 

ME: Okay, so when you're at the point of putting stuff away and figuring out where it goes, do you always pick the same style and design? Do you always make the same choices? Or do you adjust the look based on new things you've learned and new things you want out of life?

SHAY: I guess I adjust it. But I really wish it would just stay cleaned up in my head for a while, you know? It seems like I never even get to finish the job. 

ME: It's going to be a fun conversation when you realize that the guy making the mess and doing the tantruming is probably also you. 

SHAY: Ya. I know. 

ME: Anyway, you're not making me want to spend time in your brain any less, dude. Now I want to hang out in there even more!!!

We had a good giggle and my son went back to molding his vampire fangs while describing insightful truths using imagery, dragon wings, and dream worlds. 

It's a Shay thing. 

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

Shay and his fabulous vampire fangs!
He ordered them from
The site is awesome!