Saturday, March 24, 2018

Autism Answer: The Top Three Reasons I Take A Selfie (What About You?)

When my sons were little I took selfie-like pics of me with them often. Back then I didn't have access to digital pics or social media. So, I would take three or four in the hopes that one turned out alright ("alright" meaing that I captured the mood I was after and we don't look too unkempt, or - in the case of me personally - like a mean cackling witch) and then wait a month or two until I could afford to have the photos developed to find out how I did. In most cases, I threw away a few of these photos keeping only the ones I mostly liked for our photo album. (Back then a photo album was a physical thing. Boy, I'm old! tee hee!)

Anyway, now that I can use my phone to snap as many pics as I want at no extra cost while knowing how simple it is to delete the ones that don't work, I still sometimes take selfie-style photos with my son. Also, with my nieces and siblings and friends and my granddaughter! I love especially when I can capture the mood of our moments together! Some I share on social media, most I keep for myself and my family to scroll through when the moment calls for it.

But now, with my access to digital photos and social media, along with my new role of sometimes marketer, I also take a lot of selfies. Simply, a picture of me. Not only that, but I take pictures of myself to share with others. It feels weird, I admit, taking a bunch of pics of myself and then looking for the one that works. It's a little bit embarassing even, and I always look around furtively in hopes that no one will see me. So, why do I do it? 

Well, good question. I was wondering that myself! So I thought about it and discovered that these are the three most common reasons I take selfies. 

1) I'm Not A Good Enough Photographer To Capture Mood with Inanimate Objects

This one comes up mostly when I'm trying to get a good picture of a book. Books are freaking beautiful! They stir emotions and possiblity in me, and every time I'm reading a
Coffee and a book.
new one I want to share it with the world. Partly as a way to share book suggestions with followers and partly as a way to show folks what I'm reading so they can chime in with comments if they know the book or the author and have thoughts to share. But, now and then, I also try to get pics of other objecst that stir a mood in me. Headphones, pencils, coffee, etc. However, the mood stirred in me that I want to share I can rarely capture. Enter the selfie. It's easier for me to model the mood (while holding the book, wearing the headphones, nibbling the pencil, you get it) than it is to use lighting, props, and filters to create the image that evokes the feelings. So, the most common reason I take selfies is because I'm not a great photographer but I want badly to share something well. Hence, I put myself in the pic and model the mood and pose with the item (again, most often a book) because I don't - yet! - want badly enough to learn the skill of photography. 


2) I Want To Accompany My Words With An Image But I Don't Know The Rules 

I'll want to post a story or a thought, or I'll want to tell folks about one of my mom's books or shows or interviews, and I want to use an image to capture attention as well as add
Coffee and one of my mom's books!

personality to the post. But I don't know what the rules are exactly about copyright, privacy, etc. If I take a photo that includes a business logo or storefront, how much freedom do I have to post? If there is a person in the picture but I write a thought or opinion that goes against their values, is that fair? If I want to use photos from photo sharing sites, I often have to pay and always have to understand exactly what each copyright rule means and how to fairly use the image - creative commons, fair use, yadda yadda, I'm not confident I understand the meanings. So, I just take a photo of me or something I made. And then I give me permission to use it. 


3) I Think My Hair Looks Particularly Cool And Want It To Be Seen

Ya, that happens sometimes. Not often, but sometimes. I'll walk by a window, see my
Check out my hair!
reflection and think that my hair is looking pretty awesome. Then I'll notice for a moment that I live a very quiet life with not many people around. There's my hubby and my youngest son. Sometimes my brother stops by. But that's about it. I work from home and even the hours that I volunteer are mostly done on my computer. So, I'll take a selfie and post it! Admittedly, I don't say, "I think my hair looks cool," in the post, I almost always come up with something else to mention. Also, I don't sit around wondering if other people think my hair looks cool, that's not really the point. I just post and think, neat! I captured the cool way my hair is falling today! How fun! 

So, there we have it. The three most common reasons I take a selfie. I mainly wanted to share with you because I think it's fun. But also, I think it's valuable to take the time to notice what we do and why we do it. Also, selfies are far more common now than they were when I first started taking them with my 110 film cartridge. So I think it's a healthy excersise to consider our reasons. I hear people assume that it's to show off our awesome lives or to get attention by trying to look attractive and then hoping for likes and comments. Sure, some people probably do that some of the time. And if we catch ourselves doing that, serving images of ourselves and our activities up to the virutual world in hopes of some validation of sorts, well, we would do well to think about that. Maybe make a change. I don't think that's safe or healthy. 

But I think a great many of us take selfies (and share our lives, our opinions, our talents) for such a wide variety of reasons that it's worth thinking about. 

In fact, today is an important day with a small tie-in, I think. While I'm writing a silly fun post about taking pictures of myself, millions of people are marching around the world with the intention of changing American gun laws. This important movement (which, full disclosure, I support) was largely started by a traumatized group of teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, recent victim of a mass shooting. 

Now, these young people have been outspoken, well organized, and clear of message from the beginning. There are, of course, many reasons why these students have been capable of
Wondering about what we do and why we do it, for our grandchildren.
speaking with strength and clarity, but I'm quite sure one of the reasons they are comfortable speaking on camera and able to market their message well is, well, the selfie-style time they are growing up in. Taking a video of yourself and posting it online, with the possiblitiy of who knows how many seeing it, is how they're growing up. Taking a picture of yourself and then posting it - for reasons healthy and un - is how they've grown up. Hashtagging to find a target audience, and also to create a memorable meaningful slogan, is how they've grown up. And, sadly, school shooter drills is, too. So the successful turnout and attention of this weekend's  #MarchForOurLives is probably in part due to the selfie generation taking the time to think about the reasons for selfies. And, of course, due to the fact that it's a just cause to march for. 

So, I wanted to write about why I take selfies because it's fun. But also, as it is with most things, there is something valuable in it. 

Do you ever take selfies? 
If so, do you share them? 
With your family or on social media? 

Have you every wondered?
It might be a good thing to know.  

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Autism Answer: In The Parking Lot

In the car

I was sitting in our car waiting for my hubby to come out of the auto parts store, my window slightly open and a cool spring breeze tickling my cheeks. 

A big old noisy truck pulled up beside me and a nice looking elderly couple smiled at me from their open windows. I comfortably smiled back. 

Humming to myself I watched as the gentleman from the truck stepped awkwardly out of his vehicle (perhaps babying tender muscles or creaky joints, I thought) and I shared another smile with the woman who chose to stay behind. Kindred spirits, I felt. She picked up her phone and began to scroll. I giggled, picked up my phone and took the selfies in this post. 

Then my husband came out to the car carrying a new alternator, placed it by my feet on the passenger side, and excused himself to head back into the store. I stretched, kissed his cheek while he uncomfortably allowed it (displays of affection are nervous things for my husband so I rarely do them but sometimes, well, sometimes I can hardly help it) and I watched as he moved with a quick shuffle toward the store. Our age is showing, I happily sighed. I like it. 

As my look drifted toward the woman in the truck I was shocked out of my moment by angry eyes and an accusatory shaking of her head. I tried a smile but she only huffed and looked back down at her phone. 

Hmmm.... what had I done? The kiss was literally a peck on the cheek. I would ask nothing more than that of my husband, anyhow. Hmmm... had I imagined the anger? Perhaps. Wait. Here comes the gentleman she was with. Sharply she said, "we have to go." That's how she welcomed him back. Ya, I think it might be something about me. Oh, well. Probably the mixed-race relationship thing, or maybe my husband's age compared to mine. We used to get angry stares pretty often. Or, maybe, she also doesn't like displays of affection. Even tiny ones. I suppose it could have been my humming that bothered her. 

Of course, it may have had absolutely nothing at all to do with me and may have been something on her phone that shifted her mood, our eye contact and her head-shaking completely unnoticed by her in whatever headspace she was in. That's quite possible. Equally as possible as any reason I had imagined already, and all the others I hadn't. 

Anyway, they drove away while I stayed. Humming and thinking and enjoying the breeze. 

Sitting in our car waiting for my hubby to come out of the auto parts store. 

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


Running errands with my husband

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Autism Answer: Not A Traditional Family

Me and my son at UTA in Arlington

"My family is not a traditional family because it is extremely open, diverse, and strange. Everyone that I know in my family doesn’t judge others, rather we accept their differences and try to help them. My grandmother, on my mom’s side, helps those with autism, myself being included in those she’s treated. I had a mild case of autism at a young age, which affected my social skills, but my grandmother provided Neurofeedback and helped my brain function normally. My brain hadn’t fully recovered until I was in 5th grade. This made me strong enough to overcome social, personal, and educational challenges. I have become a more accepting person and freely able to express myself because my family is so diverse." ~Declyn Shelton, my youngest son.

That's a snippet from my son's essay to a University in response to the prompt: "What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood, or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person." 

Today he and I visited one of the Universities he's thinking of attending. We had a blast! The campus tour was informative, the guide was delightfully fun, and it was a beautiful day. 

As we drove home afterward, he teared up a little; surprising himself with a flood of emotion. He pulled the car off of the Interstate about halfway between Dallas and our small town (two hours south) so I could drive the rest of the way home. He started texting friends he hadn't seen in a while and making plans to hang out this week, which is their spring break. He looked at me and laughed while wiping away tears, "I can't believe how emotional I am! All the memories I've made are already made. Now I'm about to start making new ones. It feels weird and exciting and sad. Wow! Who'd have thought, right mom? University. Wow!" 

I just nodded. I felt my feelings waiting their turn. For now, I really want to experience life on the edges of his. 

After making plans to hang out with one of his best friends from much younger years, and talking a bit about how their friendship had taken an uncomfortable turn for a while, my son said to me, "You know, mom, I was always a different kind of kid. Wise, in a way. I blame you for that. You were always so non-judgemental of everyone but you also let us see the world for what it was, so I wasn't naive. Just free and wise." He got quiet then. We enjoyed the rest of the drive in emotional but lovely silence. 

I don't know if Declyn will go to The University of Texas at Arlington (though it's possible he will) but I do know that before the year is over he'll be doing something I have no frame of reference for. I've never been to University. 

Well, except for today. 

And with my youngest son at my side, it was easy to like it.
(Also, it helps that I don't have any assignments due. tee hee!)

I hope you and your family are finding ways to celebrate and harness the diversity and challenges in your world with a portion of the passion and pride my son is able to! 

As parents, we can worry that perhaps having "difference" in the home puts unfair pressure on our children, and in some ways it does. But pressure is not bad inherently. It can be molded and shaped and over time, reveal a strong, beautiful diamond. 

My son is constantly reminding me of that. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)
P.S. I don't know if I should tell him the truth about who I was in his childhood. Sure, I was non-judgemental-ish but that was partly because I still had a bit of low self-esteem and I assumed everyone else was more successful than me in some way. If he knew that would he still blame me for his wise? Nah. Why risk it? Giggle!
For Info on the Neurofeedback my son talked about in his essay, visit my mom's autism and neurofeedback website: / or her personal website:
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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Autism Answer: Highlighting My Favorite International Woman This International Women's Day!

This International Women's Day I'm highlighting my favorite international woman!

Dr. Lynette Louise (aka The Brain Broad) (aka my mom!) is the single mom of eight (six adopted, four with cognitive dysfunctions) an inspirational comedian and singer/songwriter, a brain & behavior expert, an award-winning author, an international autism show host (FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD, on The Autism Channel
Me and my sister and a couple of her kids.
and Vimeo On Demand) a grandma, great-grandma, and family addict. (Seriously, my mom, my sister, and I have a family addiction issue. It just feels soooooooo goooooood to be together!)

The bravest, strongest, biggest hearted women I know are my mom and my sister. 

My mom: Against all odds (abuse, her own autism, single parenting, children adopted from abuse and with their own disabilities, prejudice, and more) my mom raised us all with a firm belief in, and expectation of, our potential. And - despite what our society kept saying via film, magazine covers, classroom rules, expected etiquette and "normal" behavior,  and well meaning but dangerously cruel professionals -  we all couldn't help but believe mom's belief in us. It was just so darn real and insistent! 

My sister: She grew and worked in ways unlike my mom but always with that same brave, ferocious love for her children. A love that she uses as a compass in all her decision making, regardless of how uncommon the path or how strong she'll have to be to travel it. If she believes it's best for her babes she heads straight for it. Period. 

My mom again: My sister knows it's possible to do the impossible for your children because that was exampled consistently and creatively for us all our lives. My mom never let the world or the status quo define who we were or who we could be. Sure, that most often meant making difficult choices and working against the grain. It meant constantly and tirelessly teaching teachers and neighbors how to love and respect her brood. Something that just seemed so darn obvious to her yet was one of the more common problems. But mom knew we were worth it. She believed in us so hard that we couldn't help but believe in
From my mom's international docu-series FIX IT IN FIVE

CONFESSION: Sometimes I wished she'd stop believing in me so much because choosing my own destiny seemed like a lot of responsiblitiy. tee hee! 

So I'm highlighting a wonderful international woman this International Women's Day. She's only one of the many worth celebrating, but she's the one I have been most influenced and supported by. This is the reason we need to celebrate and encourage women. Because of the influence and inspiration and support they offer to others. Not just other women, but the world.

You gotta admit. The world can always benefit from a woman's touch! 

Happy International Woman's Day!!

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

Family photo from our younger years. :D

I encourage you to visit my mom's websites to learn more about her awesome-ness and how she is helping families around the globe! / 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Autism Answer: Inclusion Rider (and Other Oscar Night Insights)

I am not now, and never have I been, a visionary. My habit is to observe, consider, delight in, learn from, and seek answers in life on the edge. My family and my style have always kept me not quite fitting into the norm, but always close enough to live in a state of wanting to fit in while wanting to be comfortable standing out.

From this place, I have explored diversity: in my ideas, in the people of my life, in the cultures I live in and visit, and in the stories I choose to watch, read, tell, and believe.

But I am not one who sees clearly outside of the common narrative. Though I am poised to understand because of my positioning, I almost always need a nudge. 

Thus, I am one of those people who appreciates with great passion the people (like my mom) who step out and speak up thoughtfully and with passion about what they see, what they don't see, and how they understand it to be affecting us. These people bring me news from the places I see on the horizon, point out connections that are often missing in regular discourse.

When I was young I confess to a fear of believing in these people. These speakers of truth that rattle the status quo. I don't like confrontation and would worry about being challenged, not confident in my own ability to explain an insight I was unsure of, even while knowing that my uncertainty had more to do with my fear of being confronted than the insight itself. 

Happily, though, as I've matured I've grown better at listening, doing my darndest to understand, and then diving into my own personal thinking on the subject.

So, I admit it. I didn't always agree or see that there was a lack of diverse storytelling and inclusion in our Hollywood films. I also didn't always see how it was affecting me. How it was teaching me what to expect, who to include, and how to do so.

But I have, over the years, been shifted into an important understanding. I've listened, observed, and considered the lack of true diversity in our mainstream films and am surprised by how clueless I've been!

It's not only the lack of representation in important roles (the stars, the writers, the directors, the producers) who are rarely women, disabled, black or brown, openly gay or transgender. It's also in the stories themselves, what we tell and how we tell them (which, I'm certain, is a by-product of the lack of diversity in the folks being paid to tell the stories). 

Inclusion in film is, finally, slowly, growing, which has mostly revealed to me how dangerous it was that we were missing out on it all along.

Our movies aren't just what we watch when we want a respite from life or a night out. They inform our thinking, introduce us to concepts, bring people into our hearts and homes. They help us know a bigger world that we can ever discover on our own, breaking down barriers and building bridges. 

Those of us who see ourselves in these stories rarely notice who we aren't seeing. I'm not beautiful*, but I'm an able-bodied pretty enough white girl. I've seen myself represented in the "friend" role of films many times. Heck, I even fashioned my life that way for a long while. Wanting to say the wise things to my beautiful family member or friend when they were struggling with a problem. Wanting to be the one there in the exact right moment to say the thing that would bring the beautiful person's conflict to a close. Because of me but not about me.

*Please note that in this context I'm referring to a type of Hollywood beautiful. I know that I am beautiful. We all are. But this is a story about representation in a visual medium. Okay? Okay. Thanks! 

But what happens when the person you are is rarely seen in the stories? Sure, we are all in the main the same - desiring love, acceptance, support, and a bit of stability - but we are vastly different, too. 

And so if I was disabled or gay or obese or black or brown (and so on) I wouldn't often see myself in a mainstream starring role or even an important role. I wouldn't see my worries or needs or unique issues discussed and brought to light. And when I was represented on screen it would most often be as a plot device, a person to pity, or a social activist type hero. Not often, almost never, as a good ol' fashion regular person in the starring role of a mainstream film about: FADE IN having a problem, finding love, learning something about myself, and finally fixing my problem, FADE OUT.

At the Oscars last night, which I saw the last half of, there was a bit of diversity. That was nice. But it wasn't until Frances McDormand gave her Oscar-winning acceptance speech that I learned the term "Inclusion Rider" and knew how very many people agree and believe in the need for this shift in filmmaking!

If, like me, you thought she was saying "inclusion writer" and thought, "Well, that's a strange way to put it. I mean, we need writers who are inclusive and stuff, but an inclusion writer makes it sound, I dunno, weird. Plus, it's not that we need writers who include diverse characters and storylines, although we do and that helps, but what we need are writers who are different and diverse themselves. Inclusion writer sounds almost like a way to keep diversity out by writing them in, giving them a pat on the back and saying, 'There ya go, friend.' That's not cool."

Well, no. That's not what she was saying at all! It turns out that actors can insist on an Inclusion Rider clause in their contracts which insists on a certain level of diversity in the cast and crew for that project. That's fantastic!!! I love that!! 

Inclusion already makes life better. Imagine how much better our movies will be when we open them up to everyone!!

In a film that stars a character with a disability it would be wonderful to see actors with the disability play the role.

I've been on the set of a film that did just that. I played the role of Sherry (and I did production assistant work) for the pilot film Living with Lynette.

The show's intention is to hire actors, writers, and crew with challenges and disabilities.

The episode I'm in stars actors with autism, bipolar disorder, even a man (my dad) who was dying from cancer. The director/writer is Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad"), world-renowned Brain & Behaviour expert. We had a camera operator who had a learning disability, and her brother was on the autism spectrum. He also played, along with his mom, a small role in the film.

Working with autistic actors in Living with Lynette presented challenges. But filmmaking is ALWAYS filled with challenges and filmmakers get beautifully creative when put in a position to problem solve! So, I don't see the problem! ;D

It's important to include everyone in our storytelling and a great way to do that is to encourage, invite, and embrace all types. The idea of an Inclusion Rider is clever. That's something A-List actors can do.

And something audiences can do is demand it. We are ultimately the people filmmakers need to please. It is our money, reviews, money, attention, and money that they are craving. We are their lifeblood. Their nourishment. Let's see the films with the most different than us cast. Seek the stories that represent and hire a more diverse world.

And, when appropriate, we should bring our children! Show them, tell them, believe in them! Make sure they know that they can be our important storytellers, too. Not some of our children, all of our children!

I love film. Heck, I've written a screenplay myself and hope one day to see it on the big screen. (Yes, my screenplay has a diverse group of characters, thanks for asking!) I think that even if we don't want to make movies it is necessary that we remember the role we play in choosing what movies are made.

And in my role as important movie decider I'm signing my own personal moviegoing Inclusion Rider right now. I may not be a visionary or a great leader but I will certainly choose what visions and leaders I want to support.

Feel free to join me!

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


Living with Lynette