Defying the odds, a teen with autism who was once in a self-contained classroom and relied on a one-to-one aide is graduating high school as his class valedictorian.

Montel Medley, 17, was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and struggled through the years to become verbal and learn to socialize.

He attended a special education classroom early in elementary school before being mainstreamed with an aide. Even into high school, Medley told The Washington Post he needed support to deal with anger and learn to organize his school work.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Today, however, Medley is leaving Surrattsville High School in Clinton, Md. at the top of his class with a 4.0 GPA and he’s headed to Towson University this fall.

“Having a disability doesn’t mean you have a disadvantage,” the newspaper reports that Medley told the audience at the school’s graduation ceremony. “Sometimes it can be an advantage.”

As for his future, Medley said he plans to major in applied mathematics.