A university valedictorian at Rollins School in Orlando, Florida, with nonverbal autism delivered an inspiring graduation speech to her graduating class with the assistance of text-to-speech software program on Monday.
Valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker, a 24-year-old liberal arts graduate, urged her classmates to make use of their voice throughout their commencement ceremony.
“God gave you a voice. Use it,” she mentioned.
“And no, the irony of a non-speaking autistic encouraging you to make use of your voice isn’t misplaced on me,” Bonker continued. “As a result of if you happen to can see the price in me, then you’ll be able to see the price in everybody you meet.”
Bonker addressed the various hardships she endured whereas being autistic, together with a remark made by the principal at her highschool earlier than she graduated on the prime of her class at Rollins School.
“A narrative on the entrance web page of our native newspaper reported how the principal at my highschool advised a workers member, ‘The retard can’t be valedictorian,’” she mentioned. “But immediately, right here I stand. Every day I select to rejoice the small victories, and immediately I’m celebrating a giant victory with all of you.”
In accordance with autismspeaks.org, an estimated 40% of individuals with autism are non-speaking — 31 million worldwide. Solely a small fraction of non-speakers have been taught easy methods to talk.
When Bonker was born, she might verbally communicate till she was 15 months previous. As she described to Stephanie Rizzo, assistant director of editorial content material within the advertising workplace of Rollins, “my phrases have been inexplicably taken from me.”
“My mother and father took me to Yale Medical Faculty, the place I used to be identified with autism,” she mentioned. “Regardless of what the docs mentioned, my mother and father by no means gave up on me. They acknowledged that I used to be a pondering individual trapped in a silent cage.”
Throughout her undergraduate research, Bonker began a nonprofit, Communication 4 All, which goals to construct consciousness and take motion to assist non-speakers with autism entry schooling and communication assist, in response to her website.