Pam Martin describes her pregnancy with son, Mason, as “perfect.” She said there were no complications and she felt great.
When Mason was born, he was their first child so any challenges that they came across with eating and crying, they chalked up to “typical” and didn’t think too much of it. He walked a little later than the usual one-year milestone, but nothing that seemed too alarming. It turns out; those were early signs of Williams Syndrome.
At about two-and-a-half, Pam’s mother-in-law noticed that Mason’s eye looked like it may be turning in and encouraged Pam to get it checked. It was confirmed that Mason had exotropia (lazy eye). As they worked to get that corrected, they found a new pediatric doctor who started to keep an eye on Mason’s growth.
Their new doctor recommended the Martin’s start some support services for Mason, so he began to receive Early Intervention through Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Mason had an intense schedule of Early Intervention that included physical, occupational, and speech therapy. At two years old, Mason was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome.
The syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone. It is characterized by medical problems including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning challenges. Those with Williams Syndrome tend to be social, friendly, and endearing.
Pam said that Mason’s main issue was with eating. “Eating has always been a struggle. He would not be able to keep food down and he still does not like many foods. He’s very picky,” she said. “He’d eat pizza every single day.”
As Pam recalls the school-age years, she said he attended Epworth for preschool and it was a wonderful experience. He then attended Ridgedale for kindergarten and repeated that grade per the school’s suggestion.
“We felt very supported by the school, but they felt that Mason may do better in a larger district, so we open enrolled to River Valley,” she said.
Pam said that River Valley did have more support services and a special needs unit that was helpful, but the truth was Mason had a hard time keeping up. She said that he had friends and was never bullied, but school was just tough.
Mason recalled that getting through school had its ups and downs, but he made it. He graduated in 2012.
“I was really happy to graduate and get to work,” he said.
Like many of us, it took Mason a few tries in the workforce before he found one that really felt right. With the help of Abilities in Action out of Bucyrus, Mason landed a job at TJ Maxx here in Marion and he loves it.
“I feel very supported. The people are always very nice and helpful and you can tell that they really want to see me grow,” Mason said of his coworkers. “I just celebrated three years here and they helped me celebrate by presenting me with a certificate and a three-year lapel pin.”
Pam proudly speaks of the progress that Mason has made throughout the years. He is 24 years old now and she feels good about his success in life. “It’s hard as a parent to let go. But when your child has a disability, sometimes, you want to hold on even tighter.
“I volunteered almost every day when he was in preschool. I drove him to and from school most of his life. Now, I was driving him to work. He was ready to get his license, and I decided I would be ready when he was,” Pam admitted.
“I finally realized, I’m not going to be around forever and I need to let him grow up.”
That realization led to Mason getting his license and his first car. He is now saving up for his second car and his first loan. Pam said that he is great at saving money. “We finally convinced him that it’s okay to spend a little now and then.” She adds that he has learned to balance his spending and does a great job budgeting.
One characteristic of Williams syndrome is a love of music. This leads to Mason’s one true passion. Music. Beyond his “day job,” Mason is the drummer in a band called Toxic. They play a few gigs a year and he loves it. “I’ve been playing since I was five years old. I also play in a church band.
Mason’s family is grateful for case management services through Marion County Board of DD. Mason’s success has happened through a can-do attitude, great family support, and also through the support of his team at TJ Maxx.
“It’s great to know that our community has employers who will take the time, have the patience, and see the abilities of those with developmental disabilities,” Pam said. “I can rest easy knowing that Mason now has an extended family in his co-workers who take care of him and want him to be the best he can be.”