Her 9 year-old son has the mind of a toddler.  

Maria Madrid has dedicated her life to caring for her son with whom she can’t communicate. Joshua Cruz is a 9-year-old with big, dark eyes. He was born in Yoro, Honduras. When he was 1, his mother said he started to hit and punch himself and others.

He was later diagnosed with severe non-verbal autism and impulsive behaviors.

“He would hit himself against the walls, on his arms, on his head,” said Madrid. “He has to use a protective helmet. We’ve tried to get him to use kneepads, but he just gets frustrated and it’s very hard.”

A few months later, another diagnosis added epilepsy.

“They’re silent attacks,” said Madrid, 30. “He could be fine, and suddenly he falls to the floor. His hands get ice cold, and when he gets up, he becomes aggressive.”’

Joshua is constantly hitting her, she said, giving her bruises. He only eats certain food textures. He has the mentality of a toddler and is obsessed with train toys.

“He has no social life,” she said. “And we can’t get adapted to Miami either, because we can’t go out anywhere with him.”

Madrid needs assistance to set up Joshua’s room so he can receive therapy at home. The family also needs economic help to pay for rent and fees for the immigration attorney who is working on Joshua’s legal status.

Joshua did not receive any behavioral therapies until two years after they immigrated to the U.S, his mother said. He was already 5.

Madrid applied for asylum for her and her son and arrived in Dallas in 2014, moving in with her mother. In Texas, she reconnected with Angel Romero, whom she had met 10 years earlier in Honduras. The two married, then moved to Miami in 2018.

“It was so hard for me to work, because of Joshua,” she said. “My husband Angel had a job secured here. And I heard therapies were better in Miami.”

Romero is the sole income provider for the family.

“I never imagined I would experience this,” he said. “It has really changed my life. Sometimes it’s hard, but I don’t regret it because they both need my support and love.”

Since Madrid came to the U.S. with Joshua, his birth father has not communicated with them, she said.

“Since he was diagnosed, his father stopped accepting him,” she said. “His grandmother said he was badly raised. She told me he needed to be taken to church more than to the doctor.”

After considerable work, Madrid said she was able to get Joshua’s birth father to give her full custody, which she needed to continue with the family’s immigration paperwork.

She said she expects to hear a final decision on her legal status next year.

Caplin News Contributor

Monica L. Correa is a journalism student with a strong passion for social issues, international law and politics. Correa has a background in Spanish literature and hopes to become a voice for her community.