Autism was only one challenge that Jory Fleming has encountered in life, but on that spectrum, the boy from Columbia, South Carolina checked every box. Aspects of hypersensitivity, anger outbursts, failing to make eye contact, and struggling to communicate were all manifested in Jory Fleming, but so was a desire to still contribute, and embrace a meaningful life. His mom, Kelly, diverted from her medical career to pour all the skill and attention that she could muster into educating her son.

By her own admission, there were “lots of things” that didn't work, but something not attached to any academic theory, and instead very attached to Jory, did wonders to open the world up for the accomplished student.

Jory loved birds and Federer, his own bird, was gifted to him by his mother, and a blossoming of language and connection began to happen. Jory Fleming has his own humorous understanding of their bond, relating that “animals don't use language to communicate, and that's kind of like me. Sometimes I'd rather not use language to communicate.”

It was last year, in January, when NBC News met Federer, Jory, and his mother. He had just gotten word of his selection as one of the 32 American Rhodes scholars chosen for the year. Now, they are all in Oxford, England, along with service dog, Daisy, as seen in a March 18 NBC follow-up. Jory Fleming is moving along, swimmingly, on his Master's Degree studies and career dreams and he's planning a little less soggy vacation this summer.

Autism is seen as an asset

Kelly Fleming asserts that her aim was never to change her son, but instead, to bring out the best in him. Jory admits that his days in Oxford can have “a bit too much going on,” but he knows this is an opportune season of life, and he feels determined “to make the most of it.”

“I think people with autism are very good at dealing with uncertainty because every interaction I ever have is uncertain,” Jory Fleming astutely surmises.

He is adjusting to the changes and the global nature of his learning environment with greater confidence, because while Oxford presents many rich pathways in life, “If you know where you’re going, you can make a start,” says the student.

Like many others with challenges or disabilities in life, the person with autism never knows how or if they will be understood.

Social nuance is often never a strength, and customary small talk can be a stumbling block. Becoming invisible and overlooked can become common in the battle for overcoming negative perceptions. Kelly Fleming is encouraged by the many people who care about her son, in his temporary English home, and the ways in which they support him.

No time for chatter

Jory Fleming still makes time for hours of mindful strategy with a favorite board game, but he chooses deliberately not to focus on British failings when it comes to coffee. Instead, he has taken to the British taste for tea, but there may not be much light conversation with Jory Fleming.

Common personal information, like how old the flourishing academic wonder is, flies out the window.

“My brain sort of kicks out information that it doesn't want,” Jory explains to Harry Smith. He also understands that those details “are what most people like to talk about,” leaving him at a conversational disadvantage.

Jory’s focus in his Master's program is Environmental Change and Management, which is a field sure to continue to be in desperate need, as more and more of our planet shows damage. Jory will be one of those who'll know how to make a difference for the better.

Mother and son are hoping to make a difference in the climate very soon. Kelly has her heart set on Italy or Spain for a vacation. Jory can include the jaunt into his field of study since they will be “investigating the rumor” of whether more sun shines south of the UK.

Jory Fleming and his example of resilience shine anywhere he is.