Montel Medley’s valedictory speech covered many standard themes: the Class of 2014’s transition from middle school to high school, the impact the graduates’ teachers had on their lives, and the future as many head to college and the beginnings of careers.
Then, Montel delved into something rarely heard from someone with a 4.0 grade-point average, standing before his graduating class, preparing to head to college in a few months. Montel, 17, spoke about his autism.
“Having a disability doesn’t mean you have a disadvantage,” Montel, the valedictorian at Surrattsville High School in Prince George’s County, told the audience. “Sometimes it can be an advantage.”
For Montel, graduating at the top of his class was part of a difficult journey that began with the realization at age 3 that he was nearly non-verbal, then continued through special-education classes in elementary school and ultimately into academic independence and success.
His is not a common path. One …