A college valedictorian at Rollins College in Orlando, Florida, with nonverbal autism gave a motivational speech to her graduating class on Monday with the help of text-to-speech software.
Valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker, a 24-year-old liberal arts graduate, urged her classmates to use their voices during their graduation ceremony.
“God has given you a voice. Use it,” she said.
“And no, the irony of a non-speaking autistic encouraging you to use your voice is not lost on me,” Bonker continued. “Because if you can see the value in me, you can see the value in everyone you meet.”
Bonker addressed the many hardships she endured while being autistic, including a comment made by the principal at her high school before graduating at the top of her class at Rollins College.
“A story on the front page of our local newspaper told how the principal of my high school told a staff member, ‘The retard can’t be a valedictorian,'” she said. “Yet today, here I stand. Every day I celebrate small victories, and today I celebrate a big victory with you all.
according to this autism.orgAn estimated 40% of people with autism are non-speaking – 31 million worldwide. Only a small fraction of non-speakers have been taught to communicate.
When Bonker was born, she could Communicate verbally by age 15 months. similar to described For Stephanie Rizzo, assistant director of editorial content in Rollins’ marketing office, “my words were inexplicably taken from me.”
“My parents took me to Yale Medical School, where I was diagnosed with autism,” she said. “Despite what the doctors said, my parents never left my side. He recognized that I was a thoughtful person confined in a silent cage. ,
During his undergraduate studies, Bonker started a nonprofit, Communication 4 All, that aims to create awareness and take action to help non-speakers with autism access education and communication support, according to her. Website,