Thursday, September 21, 2017

Autism Answer: Video Games And Social Skills - Years Later

My youngest son playing video games.

My youngest son was on the phone with a college admissions woman the other day. She asked him a bit about himself, including why he wanted to be a video game developer.

"Well," he explained without hesitation, "I used to have autism when I was little, and social situations were really hard for me. I mean, really hard. I felt everyone's feelings and couldn't handle it, it hurt to be so confused and caring, so I just tried to avoid it. It was really hard." 

I continued to pretend to be working on my computer as he sighed and sacrificed a moment, offering silence in honor of the memory. The woman on the other line waited for my son to complete his answer.

He began again with enthusiasm. "But then I discovered video games and I practiced being social with characters. I felt the feelings still, but I felt like I had a different kind of control in there, I was more able to try new things because video games gave me a sense of purpose - you know, missions and stuff - but they also gave me room to figure out social skills. My empathy could cause fear and hurt for me in video games too, but I handled it better and found ways to take action better. You know, because it was a game. And then I practiced what I learned in the games with my friends at school. It took a lot of years but now I'm way better with my social skills and social stuff in general. And I still use games when I need to find that balance again. If I could give that kind of acceptance and place to learn confidence to even just one other person struggling to feel comfortable with the world, if I could do that for just one other person, creating video games would be worth it."

I couldn't hear what the woman on the other end of the line was saying in response to his explation because I moved into the other room and closed my eyes and felt feelings. 

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

RANDOM INSIDER ADDITION: As Declyn's mom I feel qualified to tell you that his story, his explation of learning social skills with the help of video games, is true. But also, it isn't. At least, it isn't the whole truth. I mean, yes, he did use the games in the way described, but he also used them to meet fellow gamers in the non-virtual world. He also had brothers to practice social skills and gaming with. He also had me, encouraging and allowing and guiding and helping him choose specific games. He also had other interests and skills that helped. I know you already understand that there is always much more to any story, but I wanted to take the time to add this addendum anyway because so many of our kids are attracted to video games. We can use them as a tool, but it takes purpose and work. Declyn did the work. With a little help from his environment, a few mistakes along the way, and then reframing, regrouping, and remembering the goal, he did the work of using video games well. I think it's of value to keep that in mind. Regardless of our passions, they can be explored and taken advantage of in healthy ways but they can also trap us in less than healthy, even dangerous, ways. It's of value to keep this in mind when we allow ourselves and our loved ones freedom with our interests and passions. Let's keep an eye on a healthy goal.

BONUS RANDOM ADDITION: My son is seriously interested in that college he was talking to, it's one of his top picks, and we're going to an open house on Saturday.  

I'd love to share more of our journey with you! As a mom, sibling, and daughter of autism I have learned and grown so much. Feel free to bounce around my blog, read posts that interest you, or purchase my book, Spinning In Circles And Learning From Myself: A Collection Of Stories That Slowly Grow Up wherein I have gathered a few of my favorites that I feel example and explore (candidly, so you'll go to some uncomfortable places with me) life lessons, hurt, mistakes, and most importantly, insistant joy, thoughtful answers, and intentional storytelling. Have a peek at the customer reviews on Amazon to learn what others are saying about the stories. So far, it's been spectacularly rewarding and humbling! 

Happy reading!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Autism Answer: When Leadership Is Thrust Upon You, Learn

Me graduating kindergarten
"Tsara is thoughtful and quiet. I enjoyed having her in my class." ~Elementary School Teachers
I am naturally nervous with attention from people I have been taught, or I have chosen to learn, to consider more-than-my-equal. And so I quickly learned to stay quiet, be polite, and do as asked around adults or people with some sort of authority, real or imagined. That is why teachers always loved having me in their class. Until they didn't. Because I could only keep up the kind, quiet, do what they say with no questions asked charade for so long. 

Eventually (in my early teens) I felt a growing understanding that what I wanted and who I was mattered equally to what they wanted and who they were. But I was at a loss at how to make this shift. So I became moody and withdrawn (around adults and teachers that is, I was quite an obnoxious flirt with my friends!) until I became gone. Skipping class was my M.O. 

I tell you this only to help you understand just how improbable it always was that I would step into any leadership role. 

But as the oldest sister of a wildly weird rag-tag bunch of kids, labels of the professional kind and of the thrown-at-you-by uncomfortable peers and nosy inconvenienced neighbors kind, I found myself slowly (and reluctantly) advocating, explaining, and exampling the need for understanding, kindness, and expectations. 

In other words, I became a leader. 

My story, of course, is not unique or unfamiliar. Some people (like my mom) are born with a clear vision of how they want the world to behave and jump up on the nearest soap-box to preach, teach, and even beg. But many of us are more comfortable in an audience; in almost any audience at first. 

As we grow to know ourselves better we begin to be purposeful when choosing in what audience we are comfortable being. But still, audience. I am an assistant at heart but I have learned to assist only those I believe in assisting; those that help me connect with myself and my desire to play a purposeful role in the world. 

But as simple as this sounds, choosing a leader or choosing a group or choosing a team, and choosing well, takes skill. In point of fact, it takes Leadership skill. 

And so I learned to be a better leader. I learned and I continue to learn. 

As parents, friends, activists, advocates, siblings, and teachers, I hope you also learn and continue to learn. 

 “A Natural Leader naturally knows how to build herself using the world around her and the raw material of her personage. A Learned Leader learns to do the same. In the end, you can’t tell one from the other. So learn.” ~Lynette Louise (The Brain Broad)

As advocates, we need to hone and refine and enhance our Leadership skills. 

As I mentioned, many of us have had the work of "advocate" thrust upon us because of our passion, love, and view of things that comes from a different perspective. 

Admittedly, large portions of us (example: me) are uncomfortable or unsure in a leadership role. Though, we do our best. We speak or write or attend meetings or example and explain for our neighbors - and we hope that we are having an effect.

With this in mind I am obligated and excited to tell you about an upcoming event, back by popular demand!
Please, I encourage you, I encourage us, to take advantage (if possible) of the upcoming Annual Leadership Summit - Albany (Nov. 2-3) and, more specifically, of Lynette Louise (The Brain Broad) who is one of the renowned speakers for the event. 

And even more specifically, attend her cost-free "after party" where she'll host a gathering of folks interested in mental health and/or brain science, especially as it relates to Leadership, parenting, teaching, activism, and advocacy.

Share this with your friends, groups, and networks! 

Better yet, attend this with your friends, groups, and networks!

Lynette is only one of the fabulous speakers who are presenting at the event. Don't miss out!

More info and links here: Recognize, Choose, and Become Better Leaders with Lessons from The Brain Broad

As advocates and team builders for our children, as educators and teachers for other people's children, as parents and siblings in our home, Leadership skills - particularly when taught by a special needs team builder, educator, teacher, and parent - are always necessary and valuable. 

Plus, the event is healthy fun!

 “Ideas don’t grow simply because they have been planted. They must fall on fertile soil.”~Lynette Louise (The Brain Broad)

Take steps to be sure your brain-soil is fertalized for the healthiest ideas! 

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

 P.S: I understand that attending an event can be overly challenging or even impossible. Sometimes an event comes along that we know, we know, we must do all we can to make happen. (Like the time I took my sons to see Mariana's Trench in Dallas, TX and so we ate cheap off-brand noodles every day for a month, or the time I went to New York for a Publicity Summit and I could only eat what was offered free in hotel lobbies the entire trip.) Those are the things we do and we never regret. 

But when an event comes along and we know we want to go, and we know it would be good for us, but we also know that it's not quite exactly worth the sacrifices or challenges at the time, we let it go. I get it. I do that, too.

So, here's the next best thing! If the Annual Leadership Summit America - Albany, NY isn't going to happen for you, no worries! Use that same Leadership skill (the one that determined this was not the event you would attend) to purchase Lynette's Leadership book! It's filled with fabulous, insightful, surprising, actionable, and weirdly exciting Leadership Lessons! Follow this link for more about the book:

And if you are attending the event, bring a copy of the book with you! Lynette can sign it if you'd like, plus it will give you a head-start on learning Leadership skills that you can then build on. You're such a clever leader for thinking of that! ;D