In Their Own Words – Telling It Like It Is
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.