Mr. Speaker, transitioning into adulthood from high school to college can be a difficult time for anyone. Balancing things such as what classes to take for your major, meeting new people, and finding time to study can be overwhelming. Now imagine doing all of those things while having autism.

Shaelynn ‘‘Shae’’ Castle was initially diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in elementary school. It wasn’t until middle school when she was properly diagnosed with autism. Shae struggled socially and academically, but with the support of her family and the Humble ISD Mosaic Program, she worked hard to learn the skills to advocate for herself.

The Mosaic Program helps people with disabilities from ages 18 to 21 transition from high school to become more independent adults. While attending Mosaic, students have the option of participating in programs at Lone Star College-Kingwood. They are taught about the disability services that are available and the accommodations to support them in class. With guidance, these students have the option to be successful college students. 

At the age of 23, Shae graduated from Lone Star College-Kingwood on May 12 of this year with an associate’s degree in education. She has big plans for her future. She does not let her diagnosis limit or define her. Shae utilizes the advocacy skills she learned to help students at Whispering Pines Elementary School, where she works as a tutor for special needs students. She intends on paying it forward by becoming a math teacher who helps special needs students like herself. When asked why she wants to be a special needs teacher, Shae replied ‘‘My experiences help me to help other children who are struggling. I can say to them, ‘I know what you’re going through.’’’

Despite a large obstacle, Shae has embraced her uniqueness and always finds a way to accomplish her goals. She has the strength and willingness to overcome, and that is a quality that not all people possess. Congratulations, Shae, on all that you have accomplished and the best of luck with conquering the professional world.

And that’s just the way it is.