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.