When it comes to dynamic duos, Batman and Robin of Gotham have nothing on Led and Jake Bradshaw of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Led, 48, a professional comic book illustrator, and his son, Jake, an 11-year-old with autism, have bonded over superheroes and comic books. But flash back to nearly eight years ago, when Jake was first diagnosed — Led wondered what the future held for his son. He worried about their relationship. He knew nothing about autism but began reading everything he could and asking therapists and other professionals lots of questions.
While scrolling the internet, looking for the latest sci-fi and comic book news, he came across a reference to art therapy and its impact for children with autism. Led, who began drawing at age 3 and never stopped, would add drawing for 25 minutes every day to Jake’s routine. Colors were used to express emotions. Led would engage Jake and ask why he was happy, angry or sad.
He beamed over his son’s obsession with superheroes, reminding him of his younger self. Jake had a speech delay but Led indicated he didn’t recognize it as a sign of autism. Art, something Led was totally at ease with, could help Jake express himself, even without words. He empowered Jake to draw himself as a superhero. That’s when things really took off.
Jake Jetpulse: A superhero with autism born
By embracing Jake’s passion, while luring him into learning, they have created a series of comic/workbooks, The Adventures of Jake Jetpulse, that gives readers a glimpse into Jake’s life on the spectrum.
The villains and monsters in Jake Jetpulse comics are from Jake’s nightmares, Led said. Jake would draw them and name them. To fight off the monsters, Led made “monster repellant spray.”
“I didn’t know what I was walking into. I was just being an attentive dad,” Led said. “I’ve created the superhero universe with him. The stories come from his experience, and I draw to bring it to life.”
Little did Jake realize, he was reading and learning while gaining more confidence. His teacher at school, at the time, shared the comic and activity books with other children.
“If you’re diagnosed with autism, that’s not bad,” Jake said. “It’s OK. You’re still unique and you can do anything.”
Working on social skills at school
Jake brings his creativity and his love of writing and drawing to his classroom at AHRC New York City’s Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School.
If it was up to Jake, “he would sit and draw all day,” said Rose Dorcia, his teacher. He is friendly, sociable, talkative, and very inquisitive, she added. “He reads very well, with good pronunciation and he understands most of what he reads.”
Like other children on the spectrum, Jake struggles with social skills. Rose said he’s learning how to approach other children if he can join their activity in an appropriate manner. He’s also working on reading body language, she said.
Led also continues to learn, every day from Jake. By encouraging Jake to pursue his special interests, he has learned to communicate better with him.
“Do everything you can to be the best advocate for your child,” Led said. “Establish relationships with therapists and others who work with your child. Ask them, ‘What can I do at home, so my child doesn’t forget this.’”
And most importantly, he added, “make things fun.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AHRC New York City is a nonprofit organization that advocates for people who are neurodiverse to lead full and equitable lives. It helps more than 15,000 people annually, and calls for better education, living arrangements, prospects for work and fuller lives in the community for the neurodiverse.