TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida college graduate is inspiring others after delivering her commencement address without saying a word, WESH reported.
Elizabeth Bonker, who was diagnosed with autism and is nonverbal, was one of four students at Rollins College to receive valedictorian honors, and was nominated to deliver her commencement speech.
On Sunday, she took to the podium and gave the address via a text-to-speech program.
“I am one of the lucky few non-speaking autistics who have been taught to type,” Bonker said. “That one critical intervention unlocked my mind from its silent cage enabling to communicate and to be educated.”
“God gave you a voice. Use it,” she told the crowd. “Because if you can see the worth in me, then you can see the worth in everyone you meet.”
Breen’s mother told WESH she hopes parents of children with autism will see Elizabeth’s story and know their children are capable of anything if they keep investing and believing in them.
“I’m just going to burst into tears,” her mother, Virginia Breen said. “I think because it was such a long journey for us you know there were times which felt a bit hopeless.”
“I am not special. All non-speaking students with autism can be taught to type,” Bonker told WESH. “That is my mission. We need to change the way the world sees autism. Just because someone cannot speak doesn’t mean they can’t feel and think.”
Bonker founded Communication 4 ALL, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the rights of non-speakers with autism and communication access.