Monday, October 3, 2016

Autism Answer: Know Your Audience

I've been honored to take part in a fantastic author interview. The questions were deep, personal, and a delight to answer! One of the questions was about my initiative and involvement in the world of autism. I love that I was asked! The audience for the site where the interview will appear are readers, writers, and literary thinkers in general. Knowing the audience shaped my answer to the question (as it should). 

But, you know, when I began to work for my mom (international mental health and autism expert Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad) as her personal assistant and publicist I found myself frustrated with "Know The Audience" type suggestions. I felt (wrongly) that I was being told to change my mom's message to suit them. How could that be a good idea? My mom's message is her message, and it suits everybody! 

I was so close to understanding yet so far away. 

I realized, eventually, what they truly meant. I wasn't expected to change mom's message, I was expected to understand the audience so that I would know the best way to share mom's message. The way that would interest and be of most value to them. 

How silly that I had misunderstood! As a mom, I know this well! When I want my sons to learn about hard work, sharing, helping, caring, giving, acceptance, independence, I don't use the same words and examples with each one, I tailor my message to suit their unique interests and personalities. I don't use the same words or examples that I would use for myself or my husband or my sister and friends, I make it age appropriate and interesting. 

Our message is our message, our understanding of autism (for those of us who love people on the spectrum and for those of us who are on the spectrum) is valuable to every audience, but will not be as intriguing or easily understood if we say the same things the same way to all the people. Not only that, but we won't be given as much opportunity to learn more ourselves.

When I'm asked to share my thoughts about autism (and here I remind you that I know our thoughts are not all the same, but that we do all have valuable knowledge) to a new audience, I'm gifted with the chance to learn more about what I know. To incorporate their additions and life learnings and questions and interests, so that I can grow my own understanding. 

This is one of my favorite things in the world! To discover the never ending ideas and perspectives that exist when I learn from both inside and outside of myself! When I shift my assumptions to fit new experiences. 

So I admit, it's funny that it took me long to learn the value of "Knowing Your Audience" in the world of press releases and marketing and pitching producers. And I also admit that though I now fully appreciate the value of it, I'm still not good at it! 

But in life, with my friends and family and the folks I meet along the way, I'm pretty good, and I love it! 

So when you are teaching your children or advocating online or explaining what you need to professionals or school teachers this year, do your best to know your audience. 

You may be surprised by how much more everyone learns.

Including you! 

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

I hope you'll be an audience for my book! Autism, parenting, and growing up are the main characters!

AUTHOR PROMISE: I promise to post the author interview (on Facebook and Twitter as well as here on the blog) as soon as it's been published. For now, though, here's a snippet of my Autism Answer for the interview:

As a reader I have been shaped by a vast collection of stories and perspectives. In so many ways this has helped me remain forever open minded and able to understand people. But there are a few communities of people missing from the popular books (and films, and tv shows) that shaped me and my peers. And it seems to me that none are nearly as missing from the spotlight of our cultural narrative as the disabled. Characters with Tourette’s or Cerebral Palsy or epilepsy. This is a dangerous and cruel lie about the world we live in. The world they live in. We need them to star in more stories. They are talented actors, writers, thinkers, singers, comedians, creators. Why do we harm each other by mostly using or ignoring them? 

So I try not to! I hesitate to write stories where the main character is autistic because I am not. But I refuse to ignore them or use them only to pull heartstrings. I share so that they will share, so that people will be honestly and openly interested, and so that we will admit to our own discomfort in order to overcome it.
The entire interview will be available on the Books For The Soul Book Club website in the near future! Subscribe to their newsletter to get my interview, gorgeous essays, and thoughtful book reviews in your inbox once a month!