Teenager Cliff Schumacher takes honors courses in calculus, English, Latin and modern European history at the private Sage Ridge School in Reno.
The freckled, shaggy-haired 16-year-old also is well-qualified to testify on a bill that would grant $6.4 million to battle autism in Nevada. He was born with the disease.
Schumacher urged the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee on Monday to help others like him escape the "prison" in which they live.
"These people are individuals with their own minds, just like me, like you, like everyone else in this room. They are locked up in themselves, like in a prison, just shut up, just because of their own biology," Schumacher said.
Several dozen autism advocates, including first lady Dawn Gibbons, filled hearing rooms in Carson City and Las Vegas to push for AB525. The bill would allocate $1.2 million to the Lili Claire Foundation, which provides services to families with autistic children, and $5.2 million over two years to the state Department of Health and Human Services to help parents pay for treatment for autistic children, which can cost more than $45,000 a year.
Schumacher's mother, Washoe County Family Court Judge Deborah Schumacher, testified that Cliff as a child had never-ending temper tantrums and would beat himself.
Intensive therapy allowed Schumacher to develop his innate skills and overcome many of the challenges autism presents, but Schumacher said he still experiences heightened sensitivity to light, sound and the "itch" in his clothes.
"I'd like to say 'I'm cured.' Well, no, I'm not," he said.
Research shows that one out of every 150 children in America is born with a form of autism, but the disorder still isn't well understood.
Factors could be genetic and environmental, but evidence shows therapy at an early age can help.