Doctors diagnosed Kaitlin Phelan of Orangetown with autism when she was two years old.
Now 13, Phelan told her story to the crowd assembled in RCC's Eugene Levy Field House for Saturday's Greater Hudson Valley Walk Now for Autism Speaks.
"I was functioning like a three-month-old and they said I may end up in an institution," Phelan said. "Here I am today, 13 years old, and I'm talking to you guys and I think that's pretty good.
"I'm in a public school and I get high honors. Just because you have autism doesn't mean things are impossible. It might make things harder, but you can come over those difficulties just like I did. I'm proud to have autism because it made me tougher than I would have been without it."
Phelan's mother, attorney Patricia Phelan, helped organize the walk, now in its fifth year. In addition to functioning as a fundraiser, the walk also provides a safe environment for people with autism and their loved ones to come together and learn more about programs that are available to them. For more information about the walk, click here.
Kaitlin Phelan was not the only example of what a person with autism can accomplish to take part in the ceremonies before Saturday's walk. Teenage singer Talina, who has performed in national events including ABC's New Year's Eve coverage, sang a song she wrote about the bullying that people with autism sometimes face, "Just Be Nice."
The money raised goes to Autism Speaks, which funds research, works to educate the public about autism and acts as an advocacy group for those with the condition.