Updated: Jun 1, 2022
Madison Thomas Brooks is a recent high school graduate of George Bush High School in Richmond, Texas. He is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and a Speech Impairment. His motto is “I can never give up”!
By Madison Thomas Brooks
“Oh boy!! I’m in Kindergarten. My teacher is so nice. Look at those toys. It’s so loud in here. Yes! These kids are fun. Hey, I’m Ma-di-di-son. Do you want to play? I said my name is Ma-di-di-son. Catch me if you can. Oh, look!! My crayon just rolled under the desk. I can get it. I can crawl and get it really fast. Wait. Why are they looking at me like that? Oh no! I don’t want to go in the hallway. Wait! What did I do? I don’t want to sit in that chair by myself. I want to go back with my new friends. Don’t touch my shirt...I don’t like that. No, I don’t like it here!”
These are some of my memories, and my parents’ memories of my first week in Kindergarten. My journey began very early. My parents told me that a pediatric dermatologist assessed a skin condition that I had at 3 months and told them it was common in children who may have developmental delays. Since that time, they have dedicated the last 17 years to getting services and resources to help me. They never gave up on me.
Between 5 and 6 years old, I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and a speech impairment. I started speech when I was three years old. I was not able to form words or make complete sentences. I had a lot of testing and speech three times a week during this time. Even today I struggle with my speech. Many children with Autism may have a difficult time developing language skills and understanding what others say to them. After 5 years old, a psychologist said that I had Expressive and Receptive Language Disorder. An expressive language disorder is when a child struggles to get their messages across to other people. A receptive language disorder is when a child struggles to understand and process the messages and information they receive from others. Even today I have to ask for information to be explained to me again to better understand. However, I can never give up.
My parents were my biggest support and continue to be. They pushed for the accommodations in ARD meetings and made sure that teachers followed my Individual Education Plans. Sometimes my mom had to call the principals to make sure the in-class supports were present. There were times when I had the in-class supports and felt very different than the other students. This is when I knew I was very different. My learning disabilities and ADHD made it important for me to have the in-class supports. More than half of people who have Autism also have signs of ADHD. ADHD is the most common coexisting condition in children with Autism. ADHD has been a challenge for me, but I can never give up.
As I became older, I began stuttering more. I was diagnosed with severe stuttering disorder. This has been the hardest thing for me to accept. You feel very alone when you stutter. I tried finding kids at my schools who stuttered, hoping that I could find that there was someone just like me. I was very embarrassed about it, and at times cried. It has also been hard for my family because they had to learn about stuttering and try to understand how to work with me. I know there were times my parents and grandparents blamed themselves because we have older relatives who also stuttered. There is evidence that genes can cause stuttering, which means that if you have family members who stutter, you may also stutter. Just a few months ago, I got the Speech Easy device to help decrease my stuttering, and started working with a different speech pathologist. It fits into my ear and helps me to slow down my speech. I am still getting used to it, but I am so happy there is hope for me. We can never give up.
Anxiety also began to increase as I got older. I would feel anxious a lot and would worry. I would get anxious when I had to speak in front of people. I started repeating things a lot and struggled with letting things go. I would repeat the same phrase more than five times. I knew it was a problem, but I could not stop doing it. My doctor who helped me with the ADHD explained that the repetitions were signs of anxiety and Autism. 40% of young people with autism have clinically elevated levels of anxiety or at least one anxiety disorder, includin
g obsessive-compulsive disorder. Along with medication, I started attending a virtual social skills group and individual sessions to better understand my anxiety and
to interact with others just like me. I can never give up.
In the last 3 years, I have been thinking about going to college. I’ve attended virtual summer camps and workshops to prepare me for college and life after high school. I learned I can advocate for myself, and I have so many supports and a great family. I also realized that I could attend college even though I have challenges. I learn differently than others, and that cannot stop me. I rank 83 out of 594 students. I was accepted into 3 colleges, The University of St. Thomas, Lone Star College, and Houston Community College. I have decided that I will attend the University of St. Thomas in the Fall of 2022. I have made so much progress since my time in kindergarten. I know I will have challenges on my journey, but I also know I can never give up!