DISCLOSURE: For this blog series, It is my heart to step into the lives of some very special people and share a glimpse of their world. I have found that we can all learn how to better love others through the power of story. During this series I will ask some very personal and often difficult questions.The answers are exactly their words. I am so grateful and humbly overwhelmed for the honesty and the trust these people have shown me. All I ask in return is that if anyone in this series touches you, encourages you or influences you in any way, that you would share and let us know. They are heroes to me!
*I can’t wait for you to meet Jack. He has autism. I drove away from his interview changed. Jack taught me much. I absolutely loved spending time with him. He had me laughing and crying. Jack is extremely smart and during the interview, he often stopped and quoted history, movies, or songs. I am so proud of him and hope that his story teaches and changes us all.
ANSWER: 14 years old, but my mom won’t let me grow a mustache.
QUESTION: Why do you want a mustache?
ANSWER: Theodore Roosevelt had one. He is my hero. He started the National Park System. Yellowstone was the first.
QUESTION: Did you know Ridley was a history teacher?
ANSWER: He was? If I was in his class, I would talk and talk and talk. Pastor Ridley will always be my pastor.
QUESTION: Tell me why you are unique.
ANSWER: I am smart….not at math. I have autism.
QUESTION: Do people ask you what is wrong with you?
QUESTION: When do you tell people you have autism?
ANSWER: I have to trust them to tell them.
QUESTION: What is it like to have autism?
ANSWER: It is quite an experience. It is fun. It feels like X-men. It makes me feel smart. My brain never takes a break. Sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t do things when I want to. My chest starts to hurt. I have anxiety issues.
QUESTION: What helps?
ANSWER: Staying calm. Stress makes it worse.
QUESTION: Do you think people treat you different?
ANSWER: Yeah sometimes.
ANSWER: They talk down to me or they ignore me.
QUESTION: Does that make you sad?
ANSWER: No. I am used to it.
QUESTION: Is it lonely being Jack?
ANSWER: Nah. Whenever I play with my toys, I feel like I am not alone.
QUESTION: Do you have friends?
QUESTION: Who is your best friend?
ANSWER: Jameson (Jameson is a young man in his 20s that attends church with Jack)
QUESTION: Do all your brothers and sisters have autism?
ANSWER: No. I am the only one. I told you I was unique.
QUESTION: They have their own struggles, right?
QUESTION: Do you understand what they struggle with?
ANSWER: Not really. I really think they should handle it on their own.
QUESTION: How many brother and sisters do you have?
ANSWER: 3 sisters and 2 brothers. My 2 new brothers are adopted.
QUESTION: What is that like?
ANSWER: Crazy! They both have Down syndrome. I can relate a little to them. I worry that people will be mean to them. People don’t understand.
QUESTION: What is the difference between Down syndrome and autism?
ANSWER: They look different than everybody else. I don’t.
QUESTION: Do you wish you looked different so that people would know?
ANSWER: I don’t know. My mom says that I do wish that. That’s the hardest part for me.
QUESTION: What do you like to do?
ANSWER: Watch Johnny Cash and Elvis while I play with my Legos.
QUESTION: Tell me something I probably wouldn’t know about autism.
ANSWER: It is not bad. You need to work with people who have it and help them with it. It is important that we get treated like human beings.
QUESTION: What do you want to be when you grow up?
ANSWER: Actor….Impersonator……Not really sure….. President.
QUESTION: What would you do if you were president?
ANSWER: I would let Elvis’ song come true….”If I Can Dream”….I want all my brothers to walk hand in hand. (those are lyrics in the song)
QUESTION: Does music help?
ANSWER: It helps my brain. It kind of calms me down.
QUESTION: Do you see yourself getting married one day?
ANSWER: If I have a son, he will be named Johnny Cash. I don’t want to talk about getting married.
QUESTION: Ok. Do you worry about growing up and being away from your parents?
ANSWER: No. I like to be by myself in my room so I can be alone. It makes me calm.
QUESTION: Is it easier having autism when you are younger or older?
ANSWER: It is easier when you are older because you can speak. Autism is awesome!
QUESTION: So you grow up, get married, and have Johnny Cash Saubers as your son. If he has autism, how would you tell people to best love him?
ANSWER: Treat him regular.
QUESTION: How do you feel loved?
ANSWER: Hugs make me nervous. It’s weird. Emotions are hard. Talking about them is hard to put into words.
QUESTION: Ok. So, do you think autism keeps you from doing anything?
ANSWER: Having friends. The last time someone came over to see if I wanted to play was 2 years ago.
QUESTION: When was the last birthday party you attended?
ANSWER: I have never been invited to a birthday party. That part is not awesome. I have a great memory. I don’t forget things so that part is not awesome either.
(I had to pause here)
QUESTION: Do mom and dad worry about you?
ANSWER: Dad, no. Mom, yes. She worries about my safety….my grades….how people treat me when she is not around.
QUESTION: Are you happy?
QUESTION: Tell me about Jesus.
ANSWER: He has a cool beard in paintings but that might not be accurate. He is chill.
QUESTION: Do you pray and if so, do you think God hears you?
ANSWER: Yeah, but He doesn’t always have the best timing.
QUESTION: Are you ever mad at God for allowing you to have autism?
ANSWER: No, but I get mad when He doesn’t answer my prayers. Without autism, I wouldn’t be Jack Saubers.
QUESTION: Are your mom and dad heroes?
ANSWER: Yeah. Sometimes.
QUESTION: Why doesn’t everybody have Down syndrome or autism?
ANSWER: They weren’t chosen.
QUESTION: Do you like the word “special needs” ?
ANSWER: It’s ok. I would change it to gifted. God gave me a gift.
QUESTION: Last question goes to mom. Is there anything you would like for others to know?
ANSWER: I think Jack is really like anybody else. He is still a 14 year old boy. People assumed that he was a bad kid or I was a bad mom when he was little. People now treat him like he is stupid once they know he has autism or hear him talk. He doesn’t always catch it or realize a lot of it. So, its harder for me to watch. But, tonight is the first time I have heard him say that autism is a gift, so I am grateful for this time.
*NOTE: I gave Jack a fist bump since he doesn’t like hugs and I drove home in complete silence.