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non speaking student with autism gives moving commencement speech

Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash

Everyone has a right to be heard.

Valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker has not audibly spoken since she was little over a year old, after being diagnosed with autism. But she knows the power of communication. Her moving commencement speech was a captivating call to action for all who listened, including the millions of internet viewers who have watched and shared the video.

“The irony of a non-speaking autistic encouraging you to use your voice is not lost on me,” she told her graduating class, using her text-to-speech computer.

The small device became Bonker’s “one critical intervention” to break through barriers that made her unable to speak. Bonker noted herself as “one of the lucky few non-speaking autistics” for being taught how to type and express herself. It enabled her to emulate her hero Helen Keller, a deaf and blind woman who went on to become a respected author and disability rights advocate.
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