Diagnosed with autism at 3, he became high school valedictorian. Today he graduates from college.

Photo: Photo For The Washington Post By Evelyn Hockstein

WASHINGTON - Montel Medley barely spoke when he was 3 years old. His mother remembers him repeatedly saying one word, "truck," and almost nothing else.

Twenty years later, Montel, who was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, on Friday will walk across the stage at Towson University to receive a dual degree in mathematics and computer science.

"We're just waiting on May 24 so he can come on out," said Roberta Medley, who raised her son on her own.

But there was a time when Montel didn't think he would graduate.

For his first few years at Towson, his mother checked on him routinely, knowing that his autism could make it difficult for him to navigate socially and manage unexpected challenges. Last spring, she decided to loosen the reins.

"I said to myself, 'I'm going to step back and let him do his thing, let him be more independent,' " she said.

Read more by Ovetta Wiggins, The Washington Post