Luke Reed, Correspondent
Bronson Layton, a Jacksonville State University student and Marching Southerner, was featured on the ABC program Good Morning America last week.
Layton, diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder — not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) at the age of two, shared his journey of acceptance and perseverance through life with autism by writing a letter to himself as a child growing up in elementary school.
“PDD-NOS delays the development of the child’s brain, which can affect his or her critical learning skills,” Layton said in his letter on Good Morning America.
Through his experience and trials, Layton continues by inspiring viewers and readers by reinforcing that the first step of accepting himself as an autistic led him to a “bigger and better life.”
“You will find your group as long as you keep being yourself,” he said.
Layton said he found his group after he became a member of JSU’s Marching Southerners.
“Marching band will not only put you into a peer group, but the independence that you gain from marching will take you far in your adult life,” Layton explained in his letter.
Having a passion in English and being senior class president naturally led Layton to being given the opportunity to deliver his graduation speech, which motivated him to continue writing in college.
“You will continue writing exceptionally in college as it is the by-product of what autism provided you with — a creative mind,” said Layton to his younger self.
Layton also explained he wants him to know that he will confidently “fulfill his dream of becoming an English tutor at the college he attends,” and that “it would be the ultimate milestone for him to one day become an English professor.”
“Working with Good Morning America was both a life-changing and educational experience,” said Layton. “I learned a good amount of networking, as well as an inner strength that I never thought I would possess.”
By being featured on Good Morning America, Layton’s message received a national platform and millions were able to tune in and understand his experiences.
“In the heat of the moment, even though I was alone when I spoke, I felt like I was already in the presence of the entire world’s population,” he said. “I did not have a clue how America would react to my story, because, in all honesty, compared to the well-known celebrities across our nation, I was afraid people would think of me as just a random stranger they would pass by in the streets.”
Once the network released the story, the response from the world was massive and impactful, Layton said.
“First, everyone I knew, and most people across America, surprisingly appraised both the story and my personal character,” he said. “ I noticed that many fans of Good Morning America commented that I served as an inspiration for their children’s future, and it was not just parents of autistics; autistics them-selves told me that I was the voice they have been looking for.”
Layton continued by saying that he “hoped that this one big opportunity would help our nation see that even those who think, speak, and act differently than others can make a difference like anyone else; we just need a chance to prove ourselves.”
Layton hopes that those who hear his message understand that they are not defined by a disability.
“All I want is for people to know that autism is more than just a word, even more than just a diagnosis,” he said. “We all have the potential to become something greater of ourselves than we believe.”
Watch Layton’s Good Morning America feature here: