When three-year-old Joey is diagnosed with autism, Kat’s heart sinks. With a single phone number and a few suggested therapies, she and her husband Derek are left to wade through the unknown abyss of ASD. Derek assures Kat their son will grow out of it, but she has done enough research. That never happens. Still, Joey can improve, and Kat vows to make his life better any way she can.
Jumping feet first into the depths of therapies and developmental preschool, Kat gives it her all. Everything should get easier. But Derek still can’t handle Joey’s meltdowns, and now he only wants to spend time with her. What happens if his attitude doesn’t change?
As Kat’s world continues to crumble around her, she finds something in herself that she didn’t know was missing.
I Not David: Finding Me Book One is a character-driven, women’s fiction novel that evokes emotion as it twists and turns through silly smiles and torturous tantrums, love and loneliness, and everything in between.
Targeted Age Group:: Adults
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My son was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old. Though, I suspected the diagnosis before it came, hearing it still through me for a loop. When the time came to set up therapies and everything else, I found the help available to me lacking.
I wanted to provide the world with a book that actively showed what life with an autistic toddler and child (coming in book 2) can look like. My son was my muse.
While the story is fictional and opposite of my experiences when it comes to my husband, the rest of it is highly accurate, which is exactly what I wanted.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
As a panster, my characters often tell me who they are. However, there is still a certain amount of forethought that I put into my characters.
I wanted Kat, the mother to experience autism as something that took over her life completely. This, of course, would affect her relationships and her marriage.
For the dad, Derek, I imagined someone opposite of my husband. Someone who cared for his son, but didn't know how to relate to him after the diagnosis. I imagined a good guy who screwed up often as he worked through his own grief.
Joey, the boy, I based off my son. While not exactly the same, Joey is a piece of my son as well as a piece of me.
A nervous current ran through Kat’s arms when she opened another letter from ALTC. She’d already cleaned up several spilled drinks that day, causing her sanity to beg for help. This could be it. As the glue on the envelope separated, she wondered what she would do if he was denied again. What could she do? The paper slipped out with reverence as if the words would change if not given proper respect. Please, let him be approved.
She closed her eyes as she unfolded the paper. After a deep breath, she peered down at the letter, her eyes immediately falling to the words 'you are eligible.' She smiled even as her heart beat harder in her chest. The bottom of the page included a temporary ID card.
Following the instructions, she immediately called Joey’s DDD case manager.
Having heard the hum of Derek’s car in the driveway toward the end of the call, Kat ran out to greet him. She hopped from one foot to another, both from excitement and from the hot concrete. Derek smiled at her as he shut the car door. “This is an unexpected greeting.”
“How was your day?” Kat leaned in for a quick welcome-home peck.
“Pretty good. I received a little gift from Steve today.”
“You did? What for?”
“Don’t sound so surprised.” Derek chuckled.
Kat shook her head. “Sorry. I meant to ask if the gift was for something specific. What did you get?”
The heat from the concrete seeped deeper into Kat’s feet, and she hurried inside, Derek a single step behind.
Joey crouched next to an outlet with a five-inch desktop fan, plugging and unplugging it from the wall.
“What’s he doing?”
The question confused Kat until she remembered she hadn’t mentioned the fan to Derek. “He learned how to take out the protective covers and kept trying to put things in the outlets. I couldn’t stop him, so I gave him a fan and worked with him until he learned not to touch the prongs. It’s safer this way.”
“How is that safer? He’s going to electrocute himself. Stop giving in to his behaviors.”
“What am I supposed to do? There are times he has to be by himself, like when I shower, unless you prefer me dirty.”
Derek’s demeanor darkened. “That’s not what I’m saying. He needs to learn to never touch an outlet.”
“Okay, you tell me how to teach him that quickly. Because I spent several hours today chasing him around the house to keep him away from outlets.”
Derek took the fan from Joey, who burst into tears and began hitting his head on the wall.
“Joey, stop screaming,” he said, pursing his lips.
Kat walked toward the kitchen. “That won’t work. He doesn’t stop crying just because you tell him to.”
“He needs discipline.”
She turned around and glared at her husband. “All kids do, but no three-year-old responds when they are told to stop screaming.”
Joey screamed louder. Kat rushed over and picked him up.
“Give me the fan. I want to show you something.” She raised her eyes to meet Derek’s angry glare.
He handed her the fan, and Joey quieted as he placed his hand on the base.
Kat held the end of the cord out to Joey. “Joey, where can you touch?”
He studied the cord carefully, then took the thick plastic surrounding the prongs in his hand.
“Do you touch here?” She pointed but didn’t touch the prongs.
Joey shook his head. “Ouch.”
“That’s right, ouch.”
She gently took the plug from his hands and held it prongs-first toward him, moving it forward slowly. Joey shifted so the prongs couldn’t touch him.
“He won’t touch the prongs. He won’t even let me touch him with the prongs. This is safer than letting him find toys and forks to shove in an outlet when I’m in the bathroom or locked in the bedroom because I have to get away from the screaming. You’re at work all day. I’m here dealing with meltdowns, spills, and missing outlet covers.”
Derek snatched the fan out of Joey’s hands again.
As Joey shrieked, Kat closed her eyes and breathed deeply, hoping the tears would subside before spilling onto her cheeks.
“Can you keep him quiet, please?” he hissed through his teeth.
Derek traipsed toward the kitchen, clenching his fists tighter. Once the fan rested on top of the fridge where Joey couldn’t reach, he sighed.
Kat sat on the floor with their son, trying to redirect his attention. The screaming continued.
“He qualifies for Long Term Care now. We got the letter today. I’ve got a list of companies to call to start setting up therapies.”
“What gift did you receive?” Her voice was calmer than it had been but remained tight.
She shook her head, giving up. Shouting over Joey’s wailing never worked.
Thirty minutes later, Joey rocked himself in the rocking chair. Kat had put him there after twenty minutes of lining up blocks, watching TV, and holding him on her lap. It appeared the chair was the answer.
Derek had disappeared into another room when their conversation—fight—had ended, and Kat wondered whether to track him down or let him stew some more. She pulled out some pot pies, slipped them into the oven, and went in search of her husband.
Derek sat on the bed and glared at his tablet’s screen, refusing to look up when she walked into the bedroom. “Are you sure you can leave him alone without his fan?”
“He’s in his chair. I can hear it squeaking.” Her words held a bite to them that she longed for him to ignore.
“Dinner will be ready in a few.”
Kat climbed on the bed next to him. “Derek?”
He eyed her from the side before returning his gaze to the tablet.
“I won’t give him the fan. I can tell that’s important to you. I just get so frustrated. It’s hard being the one with him all day long without a break.”
“I don’t get a break either.”
The words stung. Any kind of work without constant crying seemed like a vacation to her.
“I know. And I know you deal with customers and employees and deliveries at work. I can’t imagine doing that and then coming home to a tired wife and Joey’s constant meltdowns.”
“It’s not that bad. But we need to find a way to teach him how to act appropriately.” He wrapped his arm around Kat, pulling her against him.
Her lips thinned, and she exhaled slowly through her nose.
“Yeah. Therapy should help.”
He nodded again.
“What gift did you get today? I tried to ask earlier, but you couldn’t hear me over the crying.”
He turned to face her, a smile spreading across his lips.
“Steve gave us tickets to a D-backs game on Saturday.”
“Oh…for us or for Joey too?”
“Great.” Kat pushed her fist against her left leg, to keep it still. The idea of Joey at a baseball game terrified her, but she didn’t have the energy for that discussion. “Dinner should be ready. Come on out.”
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