Graduate With Nonspeaking Autism Gives Inspirational Valedictorian Speech

Rollins College’s 2022 Valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker recently gave an inspirational speech at her graduation ceremony even though she can’t speak. She is affected by non-speaking autism but communicates through typing. During her wonderful speech, she urges her fellow graduates to “see the worth in every person we meet” and to be of service to others, in keeping with the college’s ethos of “Life is for service.”

She wrote on Rollins’ website:

“I was born healthy and could speak as a toddler. Then, at 15 months old, my words were inexplicably taken from me. My parents took me to Yale Medical School, where I was diagnosed with autism. Despite what the doctors said, my parents never gave up on me. They recognized that I was a thinking person trapped in a silent cage.”

With the help of Soma Mukhopadhyay, the creator of a system called the rapid prompting method (RPM), Bonker began to learn how to communicate.

“My journey hasn’t always been easy, but I believe that a life of service is a marathon rather than a sprint. And I am celebrating the small victories along the way as I work to give a voice to my brothers and sisters who suffer in silence. Non-speaking autism is so poorly understood — it’s not a cognitive disorder — and I believe every non-speaker with autism can learn to communicate as I do.”

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