Autism doesn’t slow down Port Arthur teenager Rafael Castro – Natural Self Esteem

Rafael Castro sometimes wonders what it would be like not to be autistic.

“Being normal like my sisters would be a good thing,” Castro said. “I always wanted to be like a prodigy, a prodigy. One who invents; always gets even ones and all that.”

Castro said he thought his sisters were child prodigies because they got good grades.

“But I found out that they are quite normal,” he said, realizing that her success was due to hard work. “So I think people like me can be a little bit like child prodigies.”

Aside from the titles, Castro, 17, will graduate from Woodrow Wilson Early College High School in the top percent of his class and earn an associate degree from Lamar State College Port Arthur with a 3.42 GPA.

The senior, who is about to graduate, said his mother thought he was deaf as a child because he was so calm. He didn’t speak until he was 6. They later found out about his diagnosis.

Idalia Castro, Rafael’s mother, noticed early on that there were signs.

At 3 he didn’t want to be with anyone, not even kids his own age.

“Just always alone,” Idalia Castro said through an interpreter.

Over the years, his condition “worsened.” He cried too much, the teachers told her her son was hyperactive and she needed to take him to a doctor.

By the age of 4 he would break pencils when upset. He didn’t want to attend or speak to anyone.

He’s very intelligent, she said, adding that he likes to do things himself.

He was also an avid reader, using all the money he was given to buy books.

When her son was finally diagnosed, she was worried but accepted the news.

Rafael Castro, center, is surrounded by classmates celebrating Autism Awareness Day. (Mary Meaux/The News)

way forward

Castro is something of a wordsmith, honing his knowledge through his studies and through tvtropes.org, a website where users discuss plots, characters, and more about TV shows and pop culture.

The site, he said, uses a lot of good words that he learns by reading various scripts.

“Since I’m going to college, I always assumed they used advanced words like family tree words, you know. I mean, it’s all about logic and grammar,” Castro said of learning new words and adding them to his vocabulary. “And clearly it helped my brain. I mean it seems pretty natural as it’s like a synonym for even the simplest word.”

Janice Hendrix, assistant principal at Wilson Early College High School, recalls her first encounter with Castro. He was nervous and scared.

“See, his experience with peers at other schools hasn’t been good so far because Rafael is different socially. Respect and kindness were not often reciprocated. Also, Rafael is always striving for perfection, so initially he was very worried that he would make a mistake, get lost or do something wrong – which he never did.

“To calm his nerves, we wrote everything down in a notebook. He wrote down questions he had and asked me to write down things he needed to remember. The notebook was only used for a few weeks because he quickly adjusted to the strict schedule and routine.”

The introverted Castro has earned the respect and friendship of his classmates.

Tina Nguyen, Sr. said Castro is cool, super nice and she is thankful to have an honest and supportive boyfriend.

Senior Trang Nguyen said Castro’s work ethic inspires her and her classmates.

Classmate Kaitlyn Tran has known Castro for three years and calls him a hardworking student who is very supportive and strives for greatness.

“Rafael is an exemplary representation of a high-performing student at Wilson Early College through academics and involvement in organizations such as the National Honor Society and Young Men of Excellence,” said Senior Roger Turcios.

Rafael Castro, who has been identified as having autism, holds a flyer with the Autistic Awareness logo in front of Woodrow Wilson Early College High School. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Autism Spectrum Disorder

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.

  • About 1 in 54 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder, according to estimates by the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.
  • ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
  • ASD is four times more common in boys than in girls.

As children with ASD mature into adolescents and young adults, the CDC says they may have trouble forming and maintaining friendships, communicating with peers and adults, or understanding what behaviors are expected at school or in the workplace.

Castro’s success

Castro, who is interested in going into the medical field, is not working to promote autism in schools.

He said his colleagues could tell by his demeanor.

“I mean, I’m socially inept, introverted,” he said matter-of-factly. “At least some introverts have high IQs, you know, like Albert Einstein and even Isaac Newton. I mean, there are other people like me, like actors, musicians, and yes, even doctors.”

With graduation just around the corner, now is the time to start looking for scholarships and admission to Lamar University.

Pelar Echavez, his Algebra II teacher, in a letter recommending Castro for a scholarship, said the student impressed his colleagues and teachers with his passion, focus, and determination.

She commended him for his proactive approach to achieving his goals and believes that whatever path he chooses in the future, he will be successful.

Rebecca Harrison, his US history teacher, described Castro’s academic achievements as well above average; His tasks were completed almost immediately and were of consistently high quality.

family, organized

Castro’s favorite phrase is “the moral of the story,” and in a way that fits his life as he combines a plot and an end result or story in a book.

He sees his sisters Yamarie and Jeanina as achievements and people he wants to emulate. His younger brother Arafat is also visiting Wilson.

“Even though we have our differences, we have each other’s backs and he comforts me,” Arafat Castro said. “He was always my childhood best friend and I will always rely on him when I have problems. He always calms everything down with his logic. He always defends me, especially at school.”

His parents, Idalia Castro and Rafael Castro Sr., are proud of their son and his achievements, they said.

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