A Different Mind is a Beautiful Thing

It’s easy to talk about autism in a negative light. There are often days filled with meltdowns, screaming, and exhaustion. There is often a great disconnect in communication, understanding, or affection (maybe all of the above).

A Different Mind is a Beautiful Thing

But there are also so many days that are genuinely good, filled with life-changing, mind-boggling, wondrous, amazing moments. Autism may have its time in the limelight, but there is so much more behind those soulful eyes.

Mason was once part of the 40 percent of children on the spectrum who are nonverbal. He babbled, rattling off one-sided conversations in Minionese.

He could say a few singular words, but it was all nonsensical (to us, anyway). Only I could decipher what he was trying to get across.

It wasn’t until he was around a year and a half that we started picking up on new words. Even then, it was mostly phrases from movies or TV shows. Entire episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse would be stuck on repeat every day.

Visitors would think they were having a conversation with the cute little blue-eyed boy standing in front of them and staring contently at their faces, but really, he was off in what we began to call Mason Land.

We hit a point where we thought Mason would never speak. Everything with him was grunting, pulling on your finger, and leading you to the general area of what he was after. Communication was, and still is, our biggest struggle.

His version of “I love you,” was opening his mouth wide and planting a big sloppy kiss on your nose before graduating to putting the top of his head against your chest (his version of a hug). While my husband had a name for years (Dad), I never heard the word Mom come out of his mouth until he was three and a half (the most tear-jerking, proudest moment up to that point).

Now, everyone has a name. Everyone has a level of clearance—what he will and won’t let someone do. He can say basic greetings and tells everyone (he likes) “I love you,” before leaving. He has come so far this past year. To go from singular, echoic words to partial sentences and phrases is astonishing. He is such a bright, positive, loving boy. Even in his worst moments (or others for that matter) he is a beacon of light.

Each year comes with a new set of challenges. He’s always changing, much like the world around him. We learn to adapt. Over the years, he has taught me patience, resilience, kindness, and unconditional love. It’s not to say I don’t lose sight of those values at times, but he always brings me back.

He has that ability to bring the unlikeliest people together, to make a brooding room laugh or a sobbing sod smile. His ability to find or generate happiness in nearly any situation is one of the things I love most about him. It’s a quality not many people have, and I sometimes envy that.

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His mind is beyond mesmerizing. His memory is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I always tell my husband we should be teaching this kid Astronomy or Physics. Something grand he can take with him to college or wherever his educational path leads him. He can remember details so fine, even I have a hard time following (and I’m pretty damn detail oriented).

He can recall words, lines, phrases, and people, from days, months, or years past. He is a sponge. You really have to watch what you expose him to because he is always keenly aware of his surroundings, even when off in Mason Land. A pin can drop, he will hear it, and he won’t stop until he finds it.

In the most recent years, we’ve shifted our lives a lot to meet his needs. Moving across the county twice, changing therapists, adding therapists, changing diets, restructuring the house…It’s exhausting. Having a child like Mason who is full on (Energizer Bunny) GO-GO-GO, an (engineering) mad scientist, (overly) curious, sensitive (mentally & physically), and medically “needy” consumes every ounce of your being. It takes every last drop until there is nothing left to give, but it is so worth it, and there’s nothing I would change.

I am proud to call Mason my son. Proud to be the mother to two such wonderful little beings, who are blossoming into prosperous gentlemen. His innocence blinds me. Always curious, carefully treading on shallow waters, one toe always in the deep end.

His smile is infectious. Almost like a child who is troublesome but just so damn cute you struggle not to laugh or smile (*cough*-Riker-*cough*). I may be biased, but there is no one he has met who has not fallen in love with him. He is just as lovable as each of his quirks.

The world needs more kids like Mason. Stubborn, smart, loving. They not only bring a specialized perspective and intelligence to the world, but they teach it to be a little bit kinder, a little sweeter. Sharing our journey is just a steppingstone, a gentle reminder there is more than what the eye can see and to treat each other with kindness.

This article was featured in Issue 102 – Supporting ASD Needs Everyday

Alyssa Gilliam

Alyssa Gilliam is married and the mother of two young boys, ages two and four. Both her husband and oldest son are on the spectrum, adding color to their lives. While she completes her degree in child psychology and special education, Alyssa is a stay-at-home parent and works on her blog, Life With Autism.