Monday, October 28, 2019

Autism Answer: My Sustainable Halloween Tip - Use What You Have And Discuss Disabilities

Pictured: My youngest brother, Rye, holding my second oldest son, Tyran. Halloween, 1996

Firstly, I encourage you to read the article I wrote several years ago for Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad") that includes incredibly valuable and important tips here: Halloween: The Holiday Made for Autism (With These Important Tips)

Secondly, a reporter was asking for a sustainable Halloween tip the other day. Well, as you know, I'm totally into sustainability. It's groovy, man! Not only is it groovy, it will help us stay alive and not live harmful, cruel lives in the meantime. 

So, I'd love to share my tip with you as well! Because I want us to stay alive and not live harmful, cruel lives in the meantime.

My Sustainable Halloween Tip: 

Use what you have. Play dress-up rather than buying a costume. This is not only sustainable, but fun! Also, if you or your children have a disability or sensitivity, Halloween is an annual opportunity to dress-up and introduce yourself to the neighbors with your challenges in mind. Explain why you always wear the noise-canceling headphones that you cleverly included in your costume (or equally cleverly, kept incongruent to your costume), or ask for help reaching the inaccessible door while discussing how it affects your daily life, or share a story about a unique issue you have due to lack of sight or hearing. Sustainability is about making choices that can be sustained. Hence, not purchasing a costume but rather using what already is, as well as bringing your unique issues and needs out into the world on a day when doorknocking and chit-chatting is expected and encouraged, addresses sustainability both for the environment and for our culture.

My Sustainable Halloween Example: 

Pictured: My sister, one of my brothers (Dar), and me, dressed as a gypsy, pirate, and homeless drunk respectively, Halloween 1987ish. 

Everything we are wearing was found in mom's closet or around the house. My brother, Dar, wasn't expected to say "Trick-or-Treat" but mom did encourage him to walk up to each door, hold out his pillowcase, and offer some sort of nod or gesture of appreciation for each piece of candy. Every year Dar got more comfortable with the tradition and neighbors learned to be more comfortable with us. Dar is over 30 years old now and sometimes goes out on Halloween with his nieces and nephews and other times stays home to hand out candy. Again, it is a fantastic time of year to introduce himself and his differences to folks while feeling fun and a little less conspicuous than usual.

Sustainability matters. Taking advantage of opportunities to be sustainable with purpose and inclusion is powerful. I highly recommend it!

Have a fun, safe, sustainable, inclusive, informative, and spooky Halloween, friends!

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Autism Answer: The Work Of Making Better Memories

My least favorite memories are the ones where I was a jerk. 

So I remind myself, in those moments where I'm tempted to be impatient, unthoughtful, or unwilling to be inconvenienced, that the moment happens now but the memory remains. 

It's absolutely worth it, every time, to take a breath and encourage myself to be better, to take the time to see what I honestly think is my best move; my most useful and kind action (and, admittedly, that can be not helping someone or walking away, but it doesn't mean being cranky, mean, or unwilling to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced) and to do that. Regardless of what good excuse I may have for being lazy about doing what I think is the right thing. Too many times in my past I have hidden behind fear of being unliked, fear of backing the wrong horse, worry about looking naive or stupid, annoyance at feeling inconvenienced or too often needed, and with those as my excuses or reasons, I made memories I am stuck remembering. They are not memories I enjoy. 

It's always worth it to take the time to do what I think is actually the best kindest truest action. When I remember those choices, even later as I learn many of them were not kind or best, I don't dislike the memory because it is a memory of doing what I thought was right. 

Let's always try to do the work of giving ourselves better memories. The moment is important but fleeting. The memory stays and informs us as we tell the story of what kind of person we are. 

It's always worth it to do the work, to forgive ourselves when we didn't, and to get better and better at making sure we do.

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

Short Story: Clara


The first time The Power happened to Clara she was rocking in her chair, tiny toes barely able to touch the ground, dark eyes closed to the mean world. And though The Power built up in her and felt directly connected to her imagination, the imagining of horrible things happening in return to the man who had been hurting her, she hadn’t made The Power happen. The Power happened to her, she was pretty sure of that. Like so many things happened to her.

She hadn’t been rocking in her chair, though, when the news of what The Power had done found her. She had been hiding at the top of the stairs in her dress, little legs hugged to her chest, head down on her knees, the dress hiding as much of her as possible. She was often hiding in her clothes but they had proven to be an easily penetrated fortress. The news of what had happened to her uncle floated up the stairs dressed in her mother’s grieving voice. “He’s lost his ability to move his entire body?! How? How? How did he fall down the stairs? He lives alone for crying out loud! No toys to trip over, no people to push him! He says he was pushed? By who? The ghost of our father? Well, I suppose I wouldn’t put it past him.” And then the sound of grown-up whispers and talk. Clara had stayed at the top of the stairs a little longer before retreating to her bedroom where she stood motionless for a while longer in her doorway, staring at the small rocking chair.

Funny how The Power had found her there, rocking in that new chair. The chair given to her by the man who had been hurting her. “Just for you, because you’re special. I don’t give gifts but you’re so special, Clara.” That had confused her at the time.

Well, now she understood what was special. The Power.

But that was almost two years ago. The Power had found Clara several times since then, always when she was rocking in the chair, and always when she was imagining a scene that returned the hurt to them. She would rock slowly, close her eyes and first remember the things they did that hurt her, and in remembering she would hurt again, but then she would flip the scene and find a way for the hurt to be happening to them. Like how she had imagined her uncle reaching the top of the stairs but instead of him coming to her in her room, she imagined him tripping at the top and falling backwards, falling and banging painfully each step downward, and downward a long way because in her imagination she was enjoying each painful hit and smash on the stairs, and then she imagined him laying at the bottom crying up in pain but no one could hear him – no one would hear him – and she imagined he couldn’t move to defend himself as bugs and worms and parasites and all kind of tiny monsters crawled all over him.

She did that after the other men had hurt her, too. Different accidents, but always ones that returned the hurt and left them feeling trapped in some way.

So far, it had been only men that hurt her. Though when she had reached out to her mom for help, telling her that her uncle touched her button (that’s what she was told the private place nobody was supposed to talk about was called) her mom had laughed and said, “Too bad he doesn’t take care of his own buttons. I end up mending his clothes as well as yours.” So, no ladies had hurt her but they hadn’t helped her either. Only The Power helped when the men hurt her.

Well, no. It hadn’t been only men. Sometimes it was boys that were almost men.

Once she realized The Power wanted to use her she had tried to encourage the men and boys. Trick them, sort of. Using the things taught to her by the mean men, using the things they did to her and noticing when they would want to do it, she started trying to make it happen. Instead of only hiding in her clothes (she still hid in her clothes often, wrapping herself up and keeping herself buried away) she now also used her clothes as props when playing the game. It was a game. It became easier for her when she thought of it that way. She would play sometimes when at the park or in church. She played the game at her school and with the neighbors. If the men or boys didn’t leave her alone, they lost.

It was pretty easy to win this game. But even though she was winning every time they touched her, she also felt like she was losing. It scared her and hurt her and filled her with hate and anger at herself for playing the game. The problem was that when she didn’t play the game she was still scared that they might play the game with her. She was always scared. When she played on purpose, though, even though she didn’t like it, she was prepared and at least a little bit important. She was making something happen.

When it did, she would go to her rocking chair and let The Power come. But even there, she was beginning to wonder how much was her own fault. She didn’t feel bad when the people got hurt the way she imagined, that was part of the game. But she realized that The Power only happened to her in her rocking chair, and it was her choosing to go to the rocking chair and imagine the accidents happening.

But if it wasn’t the right thing to do, The Power wouldn’t have come to her.  Isn’t that true? Clara would wonder. At seven years old she had learned that what she used to think when she was only five – that you can’t help what happens to you – was childish thinking. We almost always have some sort of power.

And since The Power was happening to her, maybe it would be right for her to use it to help others.

That’s when she had an idea.

Perhaps The Power was given to her – a small girl, so young – in order to stop all the boys before they became men, before they hurt the girls.

She thought of Todd, the boy who lived next door. He was her age and they had played together since before she could remember. His dad had an accident only a few months ago; an axe had gone straight to the bone of his thigh while in his tool shed and the infection had set in strong and fast. He’d lost his leg in a matter of months. But Todd had always been nice
and never acted like they were boy/girl. He instead acted like they were just friends. Yet, one day he would get older. One day he might turn mean like so many of the others.

Clara decided she would watch him closely, play the game with him, and if he ever did anything at all, anything that was like the others, she would see that as a sign. She would use The Power first on him, and then on all the boys in the neighborhood. Before they could hurt someone.

Why wait until they had done the worst of it when she could stop it before anyone got hurt?

Now that she had a plan, a feeling of knowing what her role was, Clara skipped into the living room and asked her mom if she could go outside in the summer heat to play with the boy next door.