© 2024 254 North Front Street, Suite 300, Wilmington, NC 28401 | 910.343.1640
News Classical 91.3 Wilmington 92.7 Wilmington 96.7 Southport
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

CoastLine: Darien Brooks says treatment changed profound autism to high-functioning

Alice Brooks (left) is the mother of Darien Brooks (right), who was diagnosed with profound autism when he was 4. Today, he is a high-functioning member of society. Both of them credit treatment with changing the trajectory of Darien's life.
Darien Brooks / Facebook
Alice Brooks (left) is the mother of Darien Brooks (right), who was diagnosed with profound autism when he was 4. Today, he is a high-functioning member of society. Both of them credit treatment with changing the trajectory of Darien's life.

Alice Brooks says when she learned that her son, Darien, had profound autism spectrum disorder, she cried on the front porch all night. Today, she says Darien and his diagnosis are the greatest blessings of her life.

Hearing from a doctor that your child is autistic can be one of those life moments when the world stops. The National Institutes of Health describes autism as a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. Symptoms typically appear during the first two years of life, according to the NIH.

As we learn more about the disorder, well-known people, celebrities, are going public with their own diagnoses. A short list includes former NBA player Tony Snell, the actors Anthony Hopkins and Daryl Hannah, film director Tim Burton, singer Courtney Love, and entrepreneur Elon Musk. Autism experts widely agree that poet Emily Dickinson, writer Mark Twain, and physicist Albert Einstein, were probably on the spectrum.

In early 2023, the CDC found that one child in every 36 has autism. That’s a significant increase from the 2021 estimate of one in every 44 children. But the CDC tells us the reason for the increase is not any epidemic of autism. It’s because clinicians are getting better at diagnosis.

Because autism spectrum disorder can affect anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or economic background, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children get screened.

Despite its greater public profile, however, experts say there’s still a stigma that comes with the diagnosis, and that stigma and fear can prevent parents from getting the help their children need.

On this edition of CoastLine, we explore what we know about autism spectrum disorder and current treatment, and we’ll find out how one local man with the diagnosis became a high-functioning member of the community.

Darien Brooks, now in his 50s, was diagnosed with profound autism when he was four years old. Today, he holds down a part-time job, volunteers at TEACCH, a nonprofit that helps kids and adults with autism. Darien was one of the first children to be enrolled when the program was called the Child Research Project out of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and he contributes to his family.

Alice Brooks, Darien’s mother, worked as a pediatric nurse for 42 years at what is today the Children’s Developmental Services Agency. She retired at the end of 2008, but still volunteers when the need arises for the local nonprofit TEACCH.

Dr. Amelia Moody is a Professor of Special Education at the Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She specializes in kids with autism.


TEACCH - The University of North Carolina TEACCH® Autism Program creates and disseminates community-based services, training programs, and research to enhance the quality of life for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families across the lifespan.

Autism Speaks - Autism Speaks is dedicated to creating an inclusive world for all individuals with autism throughout their lifespan. We do this through advocacy, services, supports, research and innovation, and advances in care for autistic individuals and their families.

Autism Society of NC - The Autism Society of North Carolina improves the lives of individuals with autism, supports their families, and educates communities.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.