Sunday, December 31, 2017

Autism Answer: Some New Years Are Another Chapter In A Book, Others Are An Entirely New Book In The Series

Time to reflect, create, plan, envision, and connect.

The New Year always offers a timely moment to consider, reflect, plan, and design a renewed vision for ourselves. 

However, while many New Years stretch before us with potential and possibilities waiting to be shaped by us, some New Years present themselves with the promise of huge life shifts regardless of any planning on our part. These New Years, arriving with unmistakable design changes already in the blueprint, are still wonderfully important opportunities to consider, reflect, plan, and design a renewed vision around, and indeed they almost demand it considering that new living has been previously decided. But they feel different. These New Years remind us that life is going to change, that people will leave, arrive, hold on, let go, regardless of any comfort we may have with our world the way it is, and we are always able to plan, reflect, and design new visions but we aren't always able to keep things the same, and we aren't the boss of the visions and plans our loved ones create. 

I am being welcomed into one of those New Years myself. 

2018 has my youngest son graduating high school with plans to leave home for college giving my hubby and I our first ever opportunity to live together without children or a school schedule tethering us to our town, I am expecting two more grandbabies, one of whom will be the first child for my second youngest son, and my mom (aka Dr. Lynette Louise The Brain Broad, aka My Employer) has asked me to do a new job for her as she shifts her career to one of consistently speaking and performing on stages around the world now that she is no longer accepting new clients. My New Year has been partially designed for me (new living environment, new job, new babies) while leaving plenty of room for me to reflect, plan, and design how I will step into it with passion, excitement, and intention. 

What an exciting time! It's almost like a blank canvas. Almost. But more like a sequel or series. I know the colors and characters that I certainly want written into this New Year while I find myself excited for and anticipating the new ones about to be introduced. Established storylines exhist and new ones are waiting to be discovered, explored, and invented.

Some New Years are like a new chapter in a book or a new episode in the same season of a show, while others are like a brand new book or an entirely new season. I feel myself getting ready to binge on an entirely new season while opening pages against the newness on the spine of a brand new book in a series. RANDOM ADDITION: I am not often found reading books in a series or even watching many shows, preferring to be more of a stand-alone movie and book fan, but that doesn't mean I don't ever do it or understand the joys of them. In fact, I ADORE the ones I choose, partly because I choose well and partly because I choose to ADORE the ones I choose. :D

Happy New Year, friends!! 

Regardless of how much your New Year promises to be similar to recent ones, an episode in a season of your life; or spectacularly different, a whole new season or even an entirely new show, I hope you have fun planning your role and creating visions and dreams and actions for 2018!!! 

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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Autism Answer: Creating My Life With Intentional Storytelling (A Story To Start The New Year)

"Narrative and stories are thrown at people from all directions. It's easy to accept them and forget the power that they have. Yet with simple shifts Tsara Shelton suggests people can take advantage of that power by telling stories with purpose. Practicing intentional storytelling can make individuals and whole families happier and smarter." <--- That is an excerpt from this Press Release about storytelling.  The press release was written years after I had taken the time to craft and practice and live the benefits of what I first began to create for myself about twenty years ago. Following is the story of my budding new belief and how I tried to explain it to my then-boyfriend (now husband). I want to share it with you now as we step into a new year, it's a way of giving you the gift of intentional storytelling as a new understanding. In this way you can take it into the new year and create what you want out of it.  I don't know if it will do for you what it has done for me (in a word: happiness) but I hope it will give you a reminder of how powerful our personal stories are. And at the very least I hope you enjoy my telling of it. Happy almost new year, friends!!! ~Tsara

Creating My Life With Intentional Storytelling

With the sound of my boyfriend’s rusty old truck droning in my ears and the messy look of our small Texas town passing by my window I replayed his recent words in my mind, almost encouraging the annoyance to build. “It’s easier for you to be happy because your life is easier.” 

In that moment years’ worth of purposefully creating and discovering my personal beliefs about
Back in our boyfriend/girlfriend days.
happiness ignited into an uncharacteristic flame of what felt like justified anger.

“No. No it’s not,” I insisted. “My life seems easier to you because I do it well. I tell and live the story of my life happily. With intentional storytelling I am happy and I live life easier because I decide to. Not because my life is easier.” 

My boyfriend – who would soon become my husband – risked a short peek in my direction. The disbelief, almost condescending, was evident on his dark, handsome face.

As he returned his attention to the road ahead of him I heard myself lay out my proof.

“You know, I could just as easily describe my days as grueling and unfair.” A little bit crudely I affected a whiny voice. “Oh, dear me. My disabled brothers are such a burden, why must I be forced to live without the ease and freedom other sisters get to have? People stare at us, they are cruel and constantly judging us. Living with my brothers means things are always lost or broken. And me with my own problems! I was molested as a child! And I have been in an abusive relationship! I couldn’t take care of myself and went home for help. Woe is me, why must I live again with my mom? I’m such a loser!” I was almost having fun letting loose with this act and started really getting into it, holding my hand up to my forehead and closing my eyes as though all the troubles in the world were giving me a headache. “We’re poor, and I can’t even get a legitimate job because I don’t have my green card yet. And I couldn’t even work anyway because who, oh who, would take care of my babies? Besides, no matter how hard we work, and we work hard, we’re always poor. New shoes? Not in this lifetime! Oh, me oh my, the world is so cruel and my sons are treated differently. Not only because I’m a single mom but also because they are brown skinned. What a horrible hard life I have!”

As I acted out this pretend speech full of true things I was unexpectedly offered a great opportunity to solidify and make clear for myself the concrete real world power of what I was beginning to dub “intentional storytelling”. 

So, that hot afternoon in the cab of a rusty old truck driving from one small town in Texas to another small town, my much older than me black boyfriend listened as his much younger Canadian white girl girlfriend (Read: me) gave a passionate and meaningful rundown of her life and how she had made happiness a habit.

As a little girl I worked hard to be liked by others. I quickly learned that being a good listener and being mostly happy made me easy to like. Admittedly, for the longest time I was merely pretending to listen, so busy was I in my head hoping to be liked. But a degree of happiness tended to come natural to me.

Now, I am human. So I have been hurt, confused, wrong, and wronged. But with an eye on happiness I discovered (eventually) a way to learn from, understand, and disallow most of that negativity. 

Through intentional storytelling. Through the act of telling the story of my days, my life, my moments, with the intention of displaying the goodness. Whether telling it to myself or to others, always the intention was telling an authentic story that was hopeful, thoughtful, and ultimately, happy. 

At this point in my long winded argument, partly because we were almost at our destination - an Auto Parts Store - but mostly because I felt I was on the precipice of truly understanding something about myself, I spoke strong and clear.

“Do you see? My life has been, and is, just as hard as most people. But because I tell the story of my days with the intention of highlighting the happiness, the gifts, the things I’ve learned rather than the hurt, the unfairness, the things done to me, I’m actually truly happy. Sure, I talk about the hard stuff, but with the intention of finding and saying what I get out of it. Do you see?”

Pulling into the small parking lot of the store where my mechanic boyfriend was about to purchase a part for the car he’d been working on for a neighbor, he looked at me and smiled. 

“Well, two people can look at the same thing and see something different.” His go-to statement every time it was obvious we weren’t anywhere near agreeing or understanding each other.

At the time, I just shrugged. “It’s his loss,” I thought to myself, too busy being excited at my own newly concrete understanding of who I was to need validation. 

Now, happily married to that handsome mechanic for over seventeen years, co-parenting our blended family with eight colorful kids, I still share with him the value of intentional storytelling. Our happy home has benefited from it. 

But I, too, have benefitted by willingly seeing that my husband was also right. As a black man – now in his sixties – living his entire life in small town Texas with a personal history unlike anything I want to, but I do, believe, his life has always been harder and more unfair than mine. 

So now we intentionally tell our story together. And with the twining of our drastically different histories, habits, and beliefs it has become a little bit harder for me. 

But we are both happier. 
# # #

I hope you enjoyed my story! If you are interested in diving deeper into the art and power of intentional storytelling feel free to read my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself. Admittedly, the book is about me and my life, the stories are told my way and in my voice, and so the art and power of intentional storytelling is on display but not given the diversity of voice and style that is absolutely possible and necessary. As I say in my book, I hope you will do that. I hope you will discover your style of intentional storytelling and use it to enhance your life and the lives of those around you. Step into the new year with the knowledge of your power and the desire to use it well! Happy New Year, friends!! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Autism Answer: The Power And Potential Of Environment

My mom (Dr. Lynette Louise, The Brain Broad) works successfully with people who have all types of mental health challenges around the world. 

One of the things she has made clear to me in our conversations about her work is this: Your environment is affecting you. Psychologically and physically. Be aware, purposeful, and willing to make big changes in the choosing and creation of your environment. 

One of the things I find fascinating about this truth is that simply knowing and believing it gives you a most important tool to help yourself and your loved ones, regardless of your surroundings! You don't need to have overwhelming smarts or a fancy education to use this info. Just pay attention to yourself and your loved ones, and keep an eye open for clues, and be willing to make changes. 

So, knowing that your environment plays a big role in your mental and physical health can help you get healthy, no matter your environment! 

Funny, right? I mean, my mom works in homes of every style and culture, yet this important fact, that the world we immerse ourselves in matters to such a powerful degree, helps my mom effectively help her clients regardless of their environment. 

So look around you, friends. Be willing to make big and small changes to your chosen environment of beliefs, friends, culture, and habits. 

When us eight kids were small (my adopted siblings still multi-diagnosed and overwhelmingly challenged) my mom often moved towns, tweaked her belief systems, and changed professions in order to create a safe and healthy world for us kids. It always helped! Always, always!

Regardless of where or how you live, you are able to help your family by being aware and purposeful of where and how you live while keeping an open eye on how it is affecting you and being willing to make changes. 

That's some empowering stuff! 

I encourage you to watch my mom's international docu-series FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD in order to see how well she uses any and every environment - along with neuorfeedback and behavior science - to point out problems, make changes, and begin healing. (I almost want to insist that you watch it, but you would probably feel like I was being bossy and then purposefully push back against my insistance to prove your independance, which is something I do far more often than I care to admit, push away from a good idea just because someone seemed to be acting like they know what's best for me and so I want to put my own adulthood on display while acting like a child and giving into a knee jerk reaction to be my own woman by saying no, and then making up some reason I pretend is smart about why I'm saying no... not that you would act that way just because I sometimes do but, you know, I don't want to risk it and then you don't watch the show and you miss out on amazing entertainment and learning.)  Giggle!

The family we are given, the family we choose, and the family we build is complex and interwoven. We aren't responsible for making the world be the way we want it to be, and we shouldn't make the mistake of trying to make our family members be the way we imagine they should be, but we do want to take steps to build, discover, and allow for a world and family that is healthy for us at any given time in our lives.

There is a heavy responsibility in this knowledge. I know. But, along with that, there is freedom and potential in it! So try to accept the responsibity while focusing on the fun of the freedom! Build on that potential and discover the various environments and surroundings that suit you! 

Our environment is affecting us. It is helping grow us, and our families, into who we are. Let's have fun and play the important role of being purposeful and open to  change!

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Autism Answer: Alibi (Video/Song)

I wrote another song. Weird, right? I mean, I'm not a songwriter. But I am a writer so I suppose songs happening isn't that unbelievable. :D

This one was inspired by the #MeToo movement. Quite different from my last song (Sexy Daydreams, My Life Is Awesome) which was inspired by me loving and celebrating every little thing about my life. Yet also quite the same since it was inspired by my life.

Anyway, here is a video of me singing it. 

And here are the lyrics:

written by Tsara Shelton

I was sleeping
when he came in
he was touching
I was frightened

Why do I cry
when it's not my
crime, I am my own

I was drinking
he was driving
lying, trying 
to keep me quiet

Why do I cry
when it's not my
crime, I am my own

He was kindly
saying "no, please"
I was pushing
hardly listening

Why do I cry
when it is my
crime, I am my own

They were growing
I am teaching
wanting, needing
to do this right

Why do I cry
when it is my
crime, I am my own 

Why do I cry
while I do try
to stop this crime
I'm my alibi

My own

# # #

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Autism Answer: Being Supportive Of Our Brothers - But Not Blindly

Peace and Power

Timely Note: There is a movement happening right now. We are perched precariously in a place where women, girls, boys, men, people are speaking up about abuse and are beginning to be believed. We are wobbling on nervous legs here, hoping to do the right thing and make a safe, correct shift that doesn't demonize or frighten folks to the point of imploding an important and necessary change. I, too, am hopeful and anxious and reliving past pains with present understanding. Many people we love and admire are playing various roles in this story and we are being asked - being required - in real time to figure out the safest way to handle this. For ourselves and, even more so, for future generations. I am sharing the following conversation I had with a local girl as an example of how I am trying to be candid, honest, clear, and kind. It is my habit, in the interest of being liked and avoiding confrontations, to easily agree with people or simply smile and nod understanding of someone else's opinions when I don't agree. But over the last few years I have been actively practicing sharing my opinions in the moment, with thoughtfulness, even if they clash with the person I am speaking to. I hope that my caring came through as I spoke up for all the victims in the following story. ~Tsara  


A condensed version of the conversation I had last night with a young girl in our small town:

I stepped outside of our local grocery store and she was sitting alone on a swinging chair that is for sale. She is often sitting there, asking for things from passers-by. She and many of her other family members are known to do so.

HER: So, I guess you know where my kid-brother is.

ME: I think so? I heard he was in jail.

HER: Yes. Do you know what he's accused of?

ME: I'm not sure.

HER: Well, I'll tell you. Wait till these kids walk past.

She hesitated; the kids frowned at her uncleanliness and strong scent as they walked past; I acknowledged the moment as important before being certain why.

HER (Con't): Well, he's in jail for rape of a family member. Can you believe that? Now, you've known me and my brother for years and years, does that sound like something he'd do?

She looked at me expectantly.

ME: Oh, I can't say I know. I've experienced and known people to experience rape and assault enough to know that it isn't possible to guess who would or wouldn't. But I am sorry for you and your family. This must be a rough time.

HER: Ya, okay, I see your point. But you've known us long and is that something you can believe he would do?

ME: Like I said, I don't know. I hope not. There was absolutely no way I would have believed my step-dad could molest me, yet he did. He was the one who would never do that, we were sure. We just KNEW he would protect us from such things and were only afraid he may overreact if someone else did do something of the sort. Yet, he molested me. My mom had to leave him.

HER: Okay, fair point. That sort of thing has happened to me, too. But the girl who's accusing him, okay? Just days before she said this happened she had been running around having sex with a few guys. How can she then call anything rape?

ME: Oh, I've done that, too. You can be promiscuous but still get raped. In fact, it often happens. Sometimes people will think that you aren't the kind of girl or guy who says no, and when you do they get pushy or full-on dangerous. It does happen. I'm not saying that your brother did rape this girl, by the way, I'm just being honest that I can't pretend I don't believe it. My feeling is I don't know.

HER: Oh, well, you probably even know this girl. You'll see what I mean when I tell you who it is.

ME: I probably don't know her, actually.

HER: Oh, ya, that's right. You always stay out of everyone's business. That's good. That's a good idea.

ME: Look, hun. I'm not trying to be mean. I honestly feel for you and your family. I honestly care and hope that things turn out for the best in this situation and that everyone discovers some sort of important lesson. I do. I promised to keep you in my thoughts.

HER: (quietly) I just keep thinking that we are going to look so stupid if he really did do it, you know? All of us who are fighting for him and believing him. My mom wants to kick the b*tch's ass, but what if he did do it?

ME: Listen. You can love, support, and help your brother whether he did or he didn't do it. If he did do it, he will need support and love just as much if not more. He will need strong people insisting he NEVER do such things again. Strong women SHOWING him how to treat a lady with respect. People willing to say what needs to be said and risk hurting his feelings while coming from a place of believing he can make changes, he can be better. And if he didn't do it there is likely a reason she said he did. There is likely a lesson still to be discovered and acted upon. Does that make sense?

HER: Yes, I see. Yes. Well, you make good points.

ME: Well, I don't know if they are good or not but they mean a lot to me. They have helped me. Seriously, I'm sorry about the situation. Truly, I'll keep you in my thoughts and send love and hope your way.

HER: Thank you. Thank you. Hey, tell Tyran* that when he's a famous actor I want to walk the red carpet!

ME: (Hugging her) I'll let him know! We tell him all the time that you say so. Have a nice night!

I climbed into my car and hoped I had not been too cruel but also felt proud of myself for being honest and clear.

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

*Tyran is my second oldest son and his ex-girlfriend is a cousin of the girl I was talking with. 

Autism Answer: You know, there are a few reasons why I think I was able to be clear and kind and honest when talking about this uncomfortable subject with this girl. One of those reasons is simply, as I said in my introduction, that I've been practicing. But in all honesty the two main reasons I was able to speak up in this way are: 

1) I am much older than this girl. Because of that she automatically talks to me and listens differently while I inherently do the same. Had it been her mother talking to me I'm not as certain that I would have spoken up. I have been practicing so I may have. But I also may have reverted to my uncomfortable habit of keeping quiet while simply nodding understanding. I am quite good at not pretending I agree with people that I don't agree with, but I'm less good at making my disagreement clear because I am busy being sure they see I understand their point of view. 

2) However, the biggest reason I was able to have the conversation this way with this girl is autism. Growing up in a home filled with autism - where one of the biggest challenges is social understanding - has meant growing up in a home that speaks clearly about every single type of social interaction. We could not shy away from sex or sex talk as my brothers grew older because they were, as most living creatures are, interested and intrigued and curious about sex. So we often talked openly about what is and what is not okay, not in broad terms but with very specific language. Even, sometimes, role-playing social situations so that we all could practice and clearly understand possibilities, reactions, and choices. It was not only enlightening for my brothers but, man, did I ever learn a lot about behavior! It encouraged empathy. It encouraged honest introspection. It encouraged combining strength and kindness as a rule. 

While speaking with the girl I felt empathy for her, I thought about my own mistakes and allowed her the same leeway, and I insisted on strength from myself and for her as a  kindness. And the conversation was not entirely uncomfortable because, for me, it was familiar. The specifics were different but the message was the same. Social situations are filled with invisible baggage and warring wants and personalities that mingle with often unpredictable effect. Sometimes someone we love or admire does something we can not allow. Sometimes we ourselves do something we can not allow. We must be willing to see and change these things without needing to demonize or hate. It isn't easy, darn it. But it needs to be done. 

# # #

Friday, November 24, 2017

Autism Answer: My Boys And Their Beautiful Autism

Author's Note: I've pulled this one from the archives. Originally published in 2011 on as a diary entry I thought it would be fun to revisit. My brother and I flipping through pages of old photo albums and reminiscing over the Thanksgiving holiday. I felt it would be fun to invite you into some of those memories. (CONFESSION: Okay, the truth is I wanted an excuse to post this picture I found that is one of my absolute favorite photos of my two youngest sons. I searched my blog for this piece I had known I'd written - the one you are about to read - so that I could add the picture, but apparently, I had only published this piece on OpEdNews. So, I had the fun excuse of publishing both the picture and the story!) I hope you enjoy my memory. I KNOW you'll enjoy the photo! Happy holiday season!! ~Tsara

Declyn & Shay, my youngest sons.

My Boys And Their Beautiful Autism 

(written in 2011)

Having four boys is a wonderfully large amount of work and worry. It is the greatest way to force yourself into a world of self-motivation, observation, and priority changing. I love the challenges and changes that have become a part of my life as a result and especially appreciate the guidance I have been given along the way. Sharing the stories, learnings, and laughter is another great way to solidify my own ideas and maybe even help other moms who might feel a little stuck. So for this website, I would love remember the beginning of my journey with my two youngest sons.

Shay is my second youngest. From the moment he came into the world we knew there was something different about him. The usual "It's a boy!" was replaced with my mom's unsure "It's a!" (My mom delivered three of my four sons.) He was not deformed, my mom's uncertainty did not come from any actual physical confusion on the baby's part but my mom's extremely reliable intuition. She felt the difference in my newest son and prepared me from the start. And we lovlingly laughed from the start!

He turned out to be the perfect baby. Where my older two were rambunctious and stubborn, insisting always that mommy do everything, never accepting help from other adults, Shay was quiet and happy to accept love and snuggles from the nearest loving arms. As he grew he remained comfortable with all of the adults in his life. He would even spend the night with my sister and never miss me. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me and my relationship with him. How was it that he could just accept aunt or grandma and not need me? My other boys would never have accepted anyone else in so many of the situations where Shay seemed content. My heart worried for months before I voiced my concern. Of course, by then the concerns had piled up. Shay was often dealing with asthma , played alone for long periods of time with small dinosaurs and train parts (esp. Thomas the Train), loved the sensory delight of tapping sticky things on the end of his fingers, and by the age of four was still not talking. 

I did the usual, took him to doctors. They said to wait and see, some kids are late bloomers. In the meantime my mom (who had adopted four autistic boys and guided all but one into independence) decided to use this opportunity to learn sign language. What an amazing family I have! Both my mom and sister took a course while I got over my made up fear that Shay and I needed to work on our relationship, by working on our relationship. I realized that with him not needing me the way his brothers had I actually started pulling away, feeling rejected. I quickly stopped that.

By the time he was four we were signing words with our hands in front of our mouths, making language fun and were soon listening to Shay voice his wants. I don't think it took more than a month. Not to mention I had learned the important lesson of allowing Shay to be different than his brothers in the way he loved me and that gave us a different but equally special bond. As I write this he is eleven years old and at school with other eleven-year-olds. His daydreaming drives his teachers crazy and there have been times I could have had him labeled as ADD or Autistic if I thought it would benefit him, he toe-walks that line and, admittedly, I have wondered off and on about the benefits of a label for him. Over and over I have decided against it. My mom does neurofeedback with him when he is struggling to focus and that always gives him the reminder that there is a tool out there for when he feels overwhelmed. He has had a girlfriend for three years and they have made plans for their future that he is quite sure he can make happen. When it comes to his dream of being a stay at home dad with his own restaurant Shay never loses focus.

In so many ways Shay's differences have enriched my life and given me tools for parenting my other children. But nothing compares with what it has done for my youngest son , Declyn. 

Declyn was born in 2000 and for some reason was vaccinated strait out of the womb. I didn't remember this happening with any of my other children but it didn't really concern me since I am one of those fools who tends to figure that the professionals know what they are doing. My mom is not. She paid close attention and although I could hardly miss the fact that my newest baby never slept, cried any time I put him down and would go to no other grown up comfortably, I wasn't the first to notice his complete lack of eye contact . My mom pointed it out when Declyn was only about five months old. No matter what position we held him in he would focus somewhere just beyond our smiling eyes. So we found more positions and more exciting ways to grab his attention and encourage him into forgetting that he was uncomfortable with eye contact. Before long he was more than happy to look into our eyes and enjoy the fun reactions this got him! Our arms were exhausted and our eyes and cheeks tired from all the smiling but we ended up with stronger arms, a child who gained the skill and benefits of eye contact and an addiction to smiling. Not to shabby! 

Declyn's lack of eye contact was not the only sign that he may have gone down the autism path, he also had (and still has) a tendency towards vomiting (he can't eat outside or look at ugly things while around food), it was years before he became remotely comfortable in social situations and he is still quite uncomfortable meeting new people. But at nine years old he is in fourth grade, brings home great report cards and is Mr. Popularity. Every morning he begs to stay home, even cries sometimes or on rare occasions will throw up, so the transition from home to social situations is still big for him but he handles it and sometimes my heart can't take asking it of him so I let him stay home. Just sometimes.

My two youngest sons are still colored with autism. It is a beautiful part of their personalities and a gift that has been a catalyst for learning and laughing in our family. 

A gift that we are going to continue to unwrap together.


UPDATE: Wow, that was fun to read again! And how neat to see the "them" they still are, now at ages nineteen and seventeen, while also knowing how far they've come! How well they've chosen to embrace and harness and understand and value their differences and challenges. Man, I am one lucky, impressed, grateful, happy mom! Thank you for joining me on this trip down memory lane. ~Tsara

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Autism Answer: It Takes A Village

My family.

My mom always dreamed of moving from Canada to the United States, becoming a huge star and hopefully, while she was at it, a teacher of wisdoms.This was her dream as far back as she can remember. But hopes of stardom and followers were never enough to make her take the leap and figure out how to live legally in a new country. What eventually brought us to America was my mother’s dream for her children.

Particularly, her autistic children.

The dream that they could live in a place where she was not the only person who would believe in them, where she was not the only person who would teach them while believing they could be taught, and where she was not the only person who would let go of the odd convenience or easy fix to help them become their best selves. America has always advertised itself as a place where dreams are pursued and limits are seen as challenges to be proven as frauds.

After traveling the continent for years in a red and silver van --all eight of us kids dubbed it the Disco Van-- never living in one place for more than two years, she finally discovered a home for our family. Believing in the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ we were home with each other, and in the world so long as we were willing to be an example and leave when things weren't healthy anymore.

The home was us and the village was the world. A world that we traveled and enjoyed and tasted and learned from. We made stops, some long and some short, to connect with people and share stories, and then we moved on, to new places and possibilities.

Dr. Lynette Louise -my mom- is now a global autism expert, author, speaker, performer and host of the international reality series FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD, airing on The Autism Channel. When offering her unique approach to mental health for families around the world (play therapy, family dynamics counseling, and neurofeedback) she meets many parents like herself; parents doing whatever it takes to give their challenged children the most positive and beneficial environment that they can. This is a beautiful and difficult thing. Parenting is never easy, it’s not supposed to be, and parenting children or adults who are unusually challenged while being treated as an inconvenience by far too many is that much harder.

Autistic children and adults have challenges that are difficult for others to understand or anticipate. Autism is a spectrum disorder with three main components: social challenges, repetitive behaviors, and a communication disorder. These symptoms manifest in so many different ways that true autism awareness is difficult to spread. One child may be completely nonverbal (like the oldest of my four autistic brothers) while another may speak clearly but with only a few very limited interests (like the youngest of my autistic brothers). Knowing one autistic individual doesn't educate you on others.

For my mother, the single mom of eight children (four of whom were autistic), with dreams of fortune, fame, and acceptance for her challenged and challenging family; it was the acceptance for us crazy kids that drove her. And, luckily for us, she paid the bills by singing and doing stand-up comedy. Laughter was a rule in our home!

Now, three of my four brothers are living independent lives. I have a brother who handles big machines while working on welding. He's been a pipeliner and owned his own home. I have a brother in the army. He's married and is about to be a dad. I have a brother who works as an assistant for a popular local barber, filling inventory and running errands. He lives a few blocks from me in a cute little apartment. I'll be seeing him today for coffee.

I have a brother who lives with my mom. He works as an uncle and friend to family, practicing speech and snuggling people when they could use a little love. He is often caught sneaking food.

My mom, who had dreams of stardom and wise lady on the mountaintop teachings travels the world spreading autism awareness and answers in a myriad of ways. As a performer, brain expert, speaker, author and hands-on therapist. Her bank account is most often empty, and not too many know her name, but she is surrounded by adoring fans: her clients, the struggling parents and professionals she has presented for, autistic people who are grateful for her ability to truly see them and, of course, her children.

Always and forever, we are her biggest fans!

It takes a village to raise a family. It truly does. But if you can't find a village that works for you don't give up! Create, encourage, teach, and learn. The village doesn't even have to know exactly what they are doing or how to do it. As long as you do!

Happy Holiday season, friends!!

I'm honored to play a role in your village!

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


To learn more about growing up in my home I invite you to purchase my mom's book, MIRACLES ARE MADE: A Real Life Guide To Autism

Or my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself 
for a feeling of what it was like growing up in my home and how I took those lessons to build a home for my own children. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!