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Brooke Greenberg at 16 Years Old

October 5, 2009

I read about Brooke Greenberg yesterday in Pick Me Up magazine.
I have to say I was very frustrated when I finished the article.
Frustrated with her mother, for two reasons.

First, because her parents claim they don’t know whether Brooke has the mind of a 16 year old. I have several friends who can’t communicate verbally, but their parents have worked very hard over several years to find out that they do have perfect intelligence- possibly even better intelligence than your average able bodied person. Brooke’s mother, Melanie, says Brooke can smile and move her head and hands, so, has anyone tried to ask Brooke what she understands, or what she wants to learn, or even do? From the article, it seems that Brooke sits at home watching cartoons all day while her sisters are at school. Cartoons! Has anyone ever asked her if she wants to watch the news, or a movie? Has anyone ever asked her if she wants an education? If they had taught her the alphabet, she might be able to communicate using one of these:

an alphabet board

an alphabet board

But has anyone she knows thought of this? It doesn't look like it from the article.

Secondly, Melanie Greenberg says she is proud to be Brooke's mother, yet,
when asked about Brooke's age by strangers,
she lies and says Brooke is a toddler.
She says she is trying to protect Brooke, and herself, from judgement.
Maybe that's understandable, but that doesn't seem like pride to me. 

Maybe I'm being too harsh, but, as a disabled person with at least a reasonable amount of 
intelligence and understanding of the world, I can only think that 
if Brooke does have a 16 year old mind, then 
she must be bored out of it, and she must hate to see her mother 
lying about her age and, in the process, her disability.
I know how I would feel in her situation, and I wouldn't be happy at all.

Comments, as always, are very welcome below.
6 Comments leave one →
  1. Claire permalink
    November 3, 2009 10:37 pm

    I watched the tv show “Child frozen in time” which told the story of Brooke Greenberg. It showed that brook is a very happy child and that her family clearly adore her. She attends school every day and her education is tailored specifically to her needs.
    The article you read obviously did not mention her education, or the fact that she has personal nurses that help take care of her at home and at school.

  2. samedifference1 permalink*
    November 4, 2009 12:16 am

    Hello Claire

    No, the article I read didn’t say anything about Brooke’s education or any nurses. But I am glad to read your comments and to know that Brooke is getting an appropriate education.

  3. Annette permalink
    February 4, 2010 6:14 pm

    I just saw a 1 hour documentary on this 16 year girl in the body of a baby. I was so touched by how her family protects and cares for her. The program that you saw that indicates that she stays home and watches TV all day and does not go to school is misleading because the one that I saw shows her going to school and gave us a glimpse of her interacting with her teachers and her day to day activities while she is there. I do not blame her mother from giving the impression that she is a toddler because she would be setting herself up for scrutiny and disbelief if when asked ‘How old is your baby?’ she says 16 YEARS OLD. With all the love that she has from her family I hope she continues to live for a very long time.

  4. Codi Preston permalink
    February 9, 2010 3:00 am


    Samedifference1, you are right. No one has ever tested Brooke and how much she really knows. The thing is, she might really be a lot smarter than what people
    give her credit for. Just because she looks like a child, and behaves like a 1 year old in some ways, does not mean that she is not smart. There are several reasons why she might actually be quite bright. Keep in mind that even
    mentally disabled people who have IQs of a 4 year old or a 1 year old may have
    many more experiences than your average 4 year old or 1 year old, so they
    may actually know that some things might not work if they do a problem a
    certain way. Whereas a child only on Earth for 1 or 4 years probably would
    not have had that experience.

    I have been tracking this story on Brookie since August 2001. That was 9 years
    ago almost, and at that time she was 8 years old. They had a People magazine
    story on her in September 2001 (I think it was right after the 9/11 terrorist
    attack, I think the next week’s issue). Even when she was 8 years old, she
    was much more aware of her environment than your typical 12 month old or
    24 month old would be. She, even today, at age 17, goes to a special ed school
    in Towson, Maryland (she lives in Reisterstown, Md.) that is mostly for
    autistic spectrum children, and for children with intellectual disablities.
    Now, in 2001 when she was 8, one day she was in class, and it was time for
    music class. At that time, she was mixed in with some younger and some
    older kids – who were quite disabled. Well anyway, her music teacher passed
    around an autoharp around the class, giving it to everyone, except he skipped
    Brookie. Well, she actually made baby sounds and gestures with her hands
    saying that she wasn’t going to put up with being skipped. Then her music
    teacher gave her the autoharp, and she grinned ear to ear. He then said
    “I didn’t know that you cared that much”. This is not the behavior of a 12
    month old. A 12 month old would not even care that they were skipped or
    deprived of a chance, maybe not even a 24 month old. They just wouldn’t
    even realize it. Then, in the 1 hour long documentary that Annette saw
    (I saw it too), that was on TLC last year, the filming people showed little
    Brooke walking in her walker from her classroom, carrying the attendance
    sheet papers, to the school’s secretary. She was then able to walk back (in
    her babylike walker support) to her classroom and knew what door to
    turn into. Now, a 24 month old would not be able to independently go down
    to the school secretary and come back to their classroom and know what
    class to go into. Plus, watching the 20/20 10 minute special they had on her
    in June 2009, she is now almost being able to walk. She might be small, but
    I think they (everyone, including her parents) give her much less credit than
    she is capable of.

    samedifference, she does attend school every day. Of course, what will
    happen when she ages herself out of school (they are allowed to have mentally
    handicapped people till age 21).

    I see no problem with her watching cartoons or anything like that. I noticed
    she likes Spongebob Squarepants. So do I!!

    The reason that I can empathize with Brooke, is because in certain ways,
    I’m actually somewhat like her. I have Autism, albeit moderate to high
    functioning. I am really 33 years old chronologically, but in many ways,
    at least emotionally and socially, I’m like a 4 1/2 to 5 year old. I absolutely
    ADORE Teletubbies, and was a fan from the day it premiered on PBS in
    1998 until it went off the air in 2008. I also love Barney, Care Bears, Sesame
    Street, Arthur, Wimzie’s House, and other shows. While I act like a 4 year old
    sometimes (and often unconsciously without knowing it), there are many
    experiences that I have had that typical 4 year olds never had. I have a BA
    degree in Geography, but I cannot hold a job, no one ever employs me. I
    have volunteered in college libraries, I have volunteered at Triple A (American
    Automobile Association), I have worked with children at Storytime at one
    of my local libraries with my friend who is a children’s librarian. Taught the
    kids how to do “Lucky Ladybug”, an oldies song sung by Billy and Lillie
    in 1958. Because I don’t hold a job (looked for 11 years but nothing ever
    happened, so I figure why should I look 30 years for a job that won’t even
    materialize; I’ve given up totally), I surf the internet, EBay, I watch
    children’s TV shows (I can’t even comprehend some of the shows intended
    for preteens such as Foster’s Imaginary Home for Friends. I know people
    with Asperger Syndrome who are like 15 year olds emotionally who watch
    shows like that, me, don’t have a job). I also have a map hobby, I
    collect street maps and have a thousand street maps. There’s always something
    to do. I visit my local community college once a week or twice a week. Libraries
    are like my second home. Toddlers and preschoolers absolutely adore me,
    they think I’m a larger species of child. Upon meeting me the first time for
    the first few minutes, at first glance I seem to be normal, I’m tall, I’m 5
    feet 11 inches, but talking to me for 45 minutes, almost everyone concludes
    that I am like a 4-5 year old emotionally/socially in the very least, if not
    mentally in some way too. I am from California, but I want to move to a
    small town in North or South Carolina. I want to find a small town where there’s
    community support and where neighbors look after each other. With the fact that my adaptive age is that of a 4-5 year old, I need that. Small town closeness.

    Thank you and take care

    Best regards
    Codi Preston

  5. Codi Preston permalink
    February 9, 2010 3:02 am

    If anyone wants to email me, my email address is

    I have actually talked to Brooke’s parents twice or maybe even 3 times, I
    don’t remember.

    Codi Preston from the San Francisco Bay Area, California (soon going to move
    to North Carolina hopefully)

  6. Ian Turner permalink
    May 18, 2010 6:37 am

    Codi, you are projecting your own experiences onto Brooke without any foundation.

    Do you really think that her teachers have not assessed her properly in all these years? In addition, brain scans show virtually no change.

    It is correct that she has had seventeen years of experience and therefore is likely to be able to do more than when she was one, but only within certain narrow limits.

    Two-year-olds certainly would object if they were left out of something, and definitely could go to a room down the hall and back by themselves (in a familiar building). It’s no different from fetching something from their bedroom when they are at home.

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