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In Their Own Words – Telling It Like It Is

This “In Their Own Words” post is written by Jake Davis of Omaha, Neb. He is a single father of three children, one who has autism.

I’m a 31-year-old divorced father of three children, who I have full custody of: my boy Ian (9) and his sisters Sienna (8) and Ashlyn (6). I’ve had them on my own since 2005. Yes, it was trying in the beginning, but new soon becomes normal and normal becomes manageable.

My son, Ian, is an Aspie (has Asperger Syndrome) and he also has elements of Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder. Most people reading this will have a fair idea of what this entails, and for those of you who don’t, I’ll put it in a nutshell. Ian has an amazing imagination, almost superhuman technical recall, and he’s very blunt and matter-of-fact in his conversations. His imagination leads him to very interesting solutions or observations from time to time.

I love the way Ian’s thought process works. No boundaries, no form, no restrictions. Just a little boy’s logic, voiced the moment he thinks it.

The way he works is normal to me. I forget that it can sometimes be jarring or unusual to others. I try to work with him and explain the ins and outs of social interactions and the right time and place for things. He uses his experiences to dictate how he should respond in a situation he’s encountered before, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Then, there are those rare moments when you get to watch the results of an unexpected situation.

Earlier in 2007 we had moved to the western end of Nebraska from Omaha which had interrupted the every other weekend visitations with their Mom. During the summer we still kept the six week visitation schedule in place, and it was July, so they were out of school and it was time for the kids to go on their vacation.

They knew Mom was coming, and so we packed everything up and waited for her to show up the next day.

Their Mom arrived and we loaded car seats, snacks, their bags and toys for a summer adventure. I hugged and kissed the kids goodbye and as they pulled away, I decided that I had earned a nice long afternoon nap, and I went up stairs, laid down, and fell fast asleep.

I was jarred awake, seemingly only seconds later, by the ring of my cell phone. It was my ex wife.

I didn’t get out more than a groggy “Hello?” before I was hit with “Jake, I’m going to jail!” In my newly awake stupor, I wasn’t connecting all the dots. More explanation was rattled off as my brain was trying to interpret these words with varying degrees of success.

She had been pulled over for drifting onto the shoulder in front of a State Patrolman. I was still failing to understand how driving on the shoulder equals jail.

The unfortunate and embarrassing part is that my ex was behind on her child support payments. It wasn’t (and isn’t) much money at $150 a month. I don’t really need it, and when I did get it, I’d treat the kids to dinner and a movie, or a toy, or some new item of clothing they’d see while we were out shopping. She had some trouble keeping a job and a place to live. So I didn’t worry about the money (and they were going to their Grandma’s for the summer, so I wasn’t worried about lack of a permanent residence). The state however, did worry about it, and unbeknownst to me, had issued an arrest warrant for non-payment of child support. And they suspended her license.

After I had time to process the statement and the reason, I got dressed as fast as I could and drove the 40 miles away to where the Patrolman was waiting with the kids and their Mom. The Trooper had waited for me because he didn’t want to call child services and didn’t want to put their Mom into cuffs in view of the kids.

I arrived and quickly I loaded the kids stuff into my car (everything I had loaded into hers about an hour prior), and the kids hugged her goodbye and said they’d see her later.

On the way back to the car Ian says “Dad, we gotta bust her out!”

I stifle both a feeling of panic and laughter, responding with the tersest whisper I can manage, “Ian, be quiet! Get in the car!”

Undeterred by my attempt at handling the situation Ian pipes up even louder “Maybe we can bake her a cake with a file in it!” Again, fighting laughter, I whisper, “IAN! GET IN THE CAR NOW!” while quickly ushering him into the vehicle.

From what their Mom said, the Trooper had heard everything and thought it was pretty funny and had wondered aloud what cartoons Ian had been watching.

Fast forward three years later, their Mom got caught up on her child support, has regular work and is due to be married next summer. Ian still quite plainly tells it like it is, and I’ve been laughing the whole way.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

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  1. heather n
    August 12, 2010 at 10:45 am

    jake-

    i am so proud to know you and proud of the way you are raising those kiddos…they are very lucky to have you as a father.

    keep up the good work!

  2. Claudia Smith-Cruz
    August 12, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I must say that you are an amazing person and father to be raising 3 kids on your own. I know first hand how hard it can be. I have 5 kids, 2 with Autism and one with ADHD and ODD. I enjoyed the story you shared. I love how blunt your son is. My son is the same way. He makes me laugh everyday. Keep up the great work. I believe kids with Autism aren’t here to learn from us, we are here to learn from them…..

  3. Tracy H
    August 12, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Dear Jake,

    I loved your story about Ian! My granddaughter is an Aspie also (and I have a nephew with full blown Autism.) She never ceases to amaze me. From her actions to her words and conversations. She is such a treasure! Thank you for sharing your story with us!

    You are an inspiration to parents of Aspies and single parents!!

  4. August 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Oh man, what a story! I too am impressed with Dad involvement, my ex husband does everything he can as an MD to keep services from my son. Keep laughing and writing these stories down!

  5. Monica S
    August 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I have a son that is 10 and he sounds just like Ian. When I read this story I was Laughing outloud Because I can appreciate that type of situation. My son usually does something everyday that makes me laugh. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  6. Jake
    August 12, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments.

    I do want to let everyone know that my detailing of the situation was meant more as the whole explanation of why I was picking up the kids from police custody, and not a reflection on their Mom. I didn’t want to leave out details and have people wonder. She was going through a rough patch at the time, and that was just the situation that surrounded these events. All parties involved are doing pretty well now that we’ve all found our groove.

  7. izhodges
    August 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Great Story. I love living life through my son’s unpredictable moments. I wish my ex was that involved.
    Your a great dad!!

  8. Noreen
    August 13, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Interesting story you picked there. I feel bad for your exwife and the kids though. I hope they got there summer visit in. That would stink if she didn’t get to see them.

  9. kim
    August 13, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Great story, sounnds like you have a great family too, both you and your exwife! My daughter has autism as well and wouldn’t trade those conversations for anything in the world! Good luck to you!

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