BRIDGTON — From inside the Alpine Sugar Haus at Shawnee Peak, Jayden Gilpatrick stared out the window at the mountain scene.

The fifth-grader wasn’t scoping out the slopes that he was about to take on during his first attempt at skiing. Nor was he studying the movement of skiers making their way down the trails.

He was gazing at the base where the chairlift terminal redirected the hanging benches back toward the top.

“Check out all the machinery,” he said, watching the gears turn.

ThatMomentLately, the way things work is almost all Jayden talks about. At least, it was before he went skiing.

“He’s famous for taking anything apart,” said his mother, Linda Graham-Gilpatrick.

The self-proclaimed “king of master Lego-building,” Jayden also likes putting things together. Every morning, he brings a new plastic-brick structure into homeroom at Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond. For his teacher, Dennis Woodruff, that means more time trying to shift Jayden’s attention to something – anything – else.

“Some of the difficulty we have is you’ve got Legos and you’ve got school,” Woodruff said on a recent morning, as Jayden sat in an empty classroom moving pieces around on his latest creation.

“This is called the UFO Factory 3000,” lisped the freckle-faced redhead. “I built this entire factory myself.”

If he moved a couple more pieces, he said with a stutter, it would manufacture real diamonds.

Jayden doesn’t play on any sports teams, like most of his classmates. Aside from Legos, he likes video games (Skylanders the most), chicken patties (but only the ones from the school cafeteria) and reruns of the TV series “M*A*S*H” that he watches with his dad. He told Woodruff about an episode he saw where someone died.

“That’s all pretend, right?” he asked.

• • •

Jayden is 11 years old, but mentally, his mother said, he’s more like a little boy.

She started noticing when he was a toddler that Jayden was different than her three girls had been.

“He didn’t look me in the eyes,” she said. “He’d look away.”

Jayden was diagnosed with autism at age 3, a fate that Graham-Gilpatrick couldn’t have imagined for one of her children “in my wildest dreams,” she said. She went on anti-depressants to cope with her constant worries about whether he’d ever be able to drive or get a job and who would take care of him when she was gone.

“After a while, I bounced out of it and said, ‘You know, count your blessings,’ ” she said.

As he’s gotten older, her concerns about her youngest child’s future haven’t changed, but she’s put them on hold to focus on her full-time job – keeping up with Jayden.

“He’s a busy little man,” she said. “I call him my bumblebee.”

Doing anything with Jayden takes her three times as long, she said – eating, grocery shopping, getting him to brush his teeth. All the employees at Hannaford in Windham know him because of the amount of time they spend there, she said, and because he insists on giving them all hugs.

“There’s redirection involved about 1,000 times a day,” she said.

• • •

It wasn’t any different on the mountain.

For seven weeks in winter, students with special needs from school districts west of Portland take over the Li’l Pine Carpet at Shawnee Peak, a conveyor belt that carries beginners up a small incline and lets them off even before skiers on the adjacent chairlift have pulled down their safety bars. Monday mornings are reserved for a group from Windham and Raymond, which gathers in the Alpine Sugar Haus, a lodge with wooden beams and picnic benches that houses the mountain’s adaptive ski program.

The students had gone up the month before to get fitted for equipment, so they didn’t have to deal with it when they came back to ski. Getting everyone into their gear was enough work.

Jayden sat on a bench in the rental shop while Woodruff wiggled his foot into a silver boot.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, that hurts me,” he said, as his teacher tightened a buckle and clasped it shut. “That’s going to reverse my blood pressure.”

He stood up and bounced his knees.

“I can hardly walk,” he said.

Woodruff handed him his helmet.

“Wow, so shiny. Looks brand new,” he said. “You know, this ski trip is really nice.”

As Jayden lugged his skis through the base lodge behind Woodruff, the square toes of his boots banged together.

“It’s kind of hard to carry these both at once,” he said.

When they got to the base of the mountain, Woodruff bent over Jayden’s skis, fit the toes of his boots into the bindings and clipped down the heels, as the boy held his back for balance. As soon as Woodruff stood up, Jayden started inching forward.

“That is slippery,” he said just before his tips crossed and he started to topple. Woodruff grabbed the back of his oversized neon vest, like the skin on the neck of a cub, keeping him from hitting the ground.

With Woodruff close behind, Jayden shuffled toward the conveyor belt where the lift operator was waiting with outstretched hands to help him slide onto the moving strip.

“I’ve never even been on a conveyor belt before,” Jayden said, his eyes fixed on the black floor carrying him from below. He stood stiffly, angled forward.

“I’m keeping my balance,” he said.

As they made their way up the hill in tandem, Woodruff shouted ahead to Jayden to bend his knees. The boy’s legs folded on command.

“Nice!” Woodruff said.

Jayden looked up and held his mitten to his forehead like a visor. The end of the belt was in his sights.

“I’m almost there,” he said.

• • •

While a man standing at the top held his arm, Jayden slid off the rubber and onto the packed snow, but he couldn’t get out of the way fast enough to keep Woodruff from crashing into him from behind. After untangling their skis, the employee placed metal clamps on the tips of Jayden’s and handed Woodruff two long red leashes attached to them.

With Woodruff holding the reins behind him, Jayden swung his arms like a slow-motion sprinter, propelling himself toward the edge of the hill through a cluster of other neon-vested novices and their matching adult escorts.

They dropped, two by two, down the gentle slope. Then it was Jayden’s turn.

His arms in racing position, he leaned forward until his skis slid on their own over the grooves combed into the hill like corduroy.

“Make that pie,” Woodruff instructed, and the backs of Jayden’s skis spread apart.

Staring at the terrain a few feet in front of him, Jayden made his way down the hill, whipping his arms around his torso when he wanted to turn, and it seemed to work.

When he faced straight down and started gaining speed, he threw his arms back as if he had just pushed off imaginary poles.

At the bottom, he unfurled from his crouch and smiled. Woodruff asked how he thought it went.

“It was great,” Jayden said. “I think I should try it again.”

• • •

Jayden made 15 runs in total that day. He counted, though he might have added a few. And the smile rarely left his face, even after the two times he fell.

“Not even a single damage,” he said, as he pushed himself back up and kept going.

Around him, teachers yelled out to other skiers – “Snow plow! Pizza!” and cheers of “Woo-hoo” – while students giggled when they made a good turn and screamed when they hit the ground. The commotion couldn’t compete with Jayden’s focus.

He spent the conveyor belt rides talking to Woodruff. He pointed his mitten up the mountain, where he said he’ll go when he gets extremely good, and explained how the next run was going to be the best one yet. But coming down, he barely made a sound, fixated on the slope ahead.

After the last run, Woodruff helped him take off his skis and carried them for him, as Jayden sidestepped down the stairs to the base lodge.

“I did it so good,” he told anyone in the rental shop who would listen. “Mr. Woodruff was really impressed.”

He didn’t stop talking as he followed Woodruff back to the Alpine Sugar Haus, or when he sat at one of the picnic benches with his schoolmates for lunch.

“Wait until you see how fast my skiing speed is,” he told an older girl across the table, who raised her eyebrows in feigned interest. “It’s super fast. I could get in front of everyone.”

As he plucked Goldfish from a Ziploc bag, his soliloquy drifted to his sisters, Super Mario and the other snacks in his lunchbox, before Woodruff made him go to the bathroom one last time. Most of the students were already on the bus when they got outside and started heading down the stairs.

“With skiing boots on it’s much more harder,” Jayden said, staring at each step he took. “With regular boots on – ”

Woodruff interrupted.

“This way, Jayden,” he said.