In the Eye of the Beholder

“The Spectrum of Hope” Autism Awareness Pendant

It is often said that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and, despite my son’s autism, it is a stretch for me to see him as anything other than “beautiful”.

I recall one particular occasion when it was being explained to me that, typically, non-verbal children with autism demonstrate 1 of 3 separate characteristics in their SPECT scan results, but that Nathan was the doctor’s first patient to demonstrate all 3 traits. Not only that, but he had a near “ring of fire” pattern of hyper blood flow all around the perimeter of his brain, lighting it up, and making those areas

SPECT Image: A near “ring of fire” around the perimeter of the brain

overactive, (thus explaining some of his unusual behaviors). As I took in that information, I knew that some children had recovered with a fraction of the interventions my son had received, and I couldn’t understand why we weren’t making better traction.

The SPECT results were beginning to shed more light on my son’s neurological landscape and on the complexities of his condition. As my heart sank, I turned and looked at my son playing so quietly in the corner and said immediately, “But, just look at how beautiful he is!” The doctor quietly replied, “I know. They all are to me, too.”

As I looked over the doctor’s shoulder at the colorful thermal images mapping the blood flow in my son’s brain, this strange frowning face seemed to stare back at me

from the pictures, as if to say, “Autism is scary. Autism is ugly.” Then, I looked at my son and thought to myself, “He’s a joy to me on his worst day! We will face this together! I am not afraid! Just look at him! He is so beautiful!”

SPECT Image: Odd “frowning face” pattern

As I usually do when I have to digest bad news, I ran home to my jewelry workbench to tinker into the wee hours of the night. I draw inspiration from both the challenges and the triumphs faced in confronting my Nathan’s autism and infuse it into my jewelry. On that particular night, I kept thinking in terms of “the spectrum” being brilliantly lit like Nathan’s SPECT with beautiful colors reflective of the purity of my child’s spirit, and of the hope of his mom, who will NEVER GIVE UP ON HIM. Before I knew it, there sat on my workbench a sparkling pendant featuring a Swarovski crystal “Ring of Fire” which I called, “The Spectrum of Hope”.

You know, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. My son is beautiful.

by Vicki Sotack, Cincinnati, OH, USA

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