Mason Robert Williams was born on August 14th 2010. We were so thrilled to welcome our baby boy into this world. Everything about him was absolutely perfect. My pregnancy was easy; Mason was full term and weighed a healthy 7 lbs 8 oz’s. He was an easy baby; Mason hit many of his first year mile stones as expected. It wasn’t until Mason was about 1 ½ when we started noticing he wasn’t quite talking or walking as other kiddos his age were. We didn’t think much of it as we were young and inexperienced parents.
At age two Mason went to preschool. A few months in, our hearts were heavy as we were instructed by his teachers to have him tested at Harbor Regional center because they felt he was not reaching his milestones. His first assessment was quick and the consensus was that he was perfectly “normal”. This of course put our minds at ease. Just a few months later the teachers felt a psychological evaluation was warranted. So again we went to HRC for another Assessment. This time it was much lengthier. After a few weeks we got our results. This day will forever be etched in our memories. The diagnosis was Autism Spectrum Disorder.
As you can imagine we were heartbroken. We had just welcomed our second son and now, this. We cried, we panicked we grieved. How could our perfect precious boy have something “wrong with him?” We started researching ASD and what the next steps were. We immediately got Mason into ABA therapy and were lucky enough to get him enrolled in a program at Pediatric Therapy Network. I remember dropping him off at his new school. I remember looking around at all of the children there including Mason and just feeling so helpless, so concerned and so worried. When you have a child you want to give them the world. You want to “fix” everything that could ever possibly go wrong for them. Embarking on this journey was so very painful because we couldn’t fix Mason.
As time went on we realized that Mason was strong. Mason was brave. Mason was MASON. Sure may be he wasn’t “typical” but he was amazing. His spirit, determination and his kind heart has taken him above and beyond what we ever thought possible. Early intervention sure did help our little boy shine but in reality Mason was the one who fought for himself. He always had a positive attitude and welcomed the challenges he faced.
Mason is now 7 years old and has been mainstreamed in public school for nearly three years. He has learned to speak up, to make friends, to read, to write and to be simply amazing in every way. The label of ASD is scary when you first hear it. However, this little boy has worked so hard to get to where he is today. His Father and I would love to take all the credit but in reality, Mason is the one who deserves it all.
Mason loves to read, to play soccer, listen to music and loves his family and friends. I was so worried that he may not ever know what love is, or how much he is loved. But, every time I pick him up from school he runs to me and gives me the biggest hug. Mason openly expresses his love for his friends and family. He makes our hearts burst!
Mason may not be “typical” but he sure is amazing. We do not view him or treat him any differently than any other kiddo would be viewed or treated. He is still or perfect precious baby boy and we are so proud of him and all that he has accomplished. Below I am sharing something that really helped me through my toughest days. Hopefully this poem below can help you navigate whatever challenges you are facing in your own life…
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
Emily Perl Kingsley.
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.