Autistic woman can’t speak – and gives her graduation speech at college

Autistic woman can’t speak – and gives her graduation speech at college
Autistic woman can’t speak – and gives her graduation speech at college

“A Great Victory”
Autistic woman can’t speak – and still gives the graduation speech at her college

Elizabeth Bonker giving her speech using a computer

© Rollins College / Youtube

05/14/2022, 15:51

2 min reading time

Autistic Elizabeth Bonker has not spoken since she was a child. As the best in her class at her college, she still gave a moving graduation speech.

Elizabeth Bonker has not been able to speak since she was 15 months old. The American is autistic. However, that did not stop the 24-year-old from graduating from Rollins College in the US state of Florida – and with excellent results: Bonker received her certificate as the best in her class. She also had the honor of giving the graduation speech of her class.

Although Bonker cannot speak herself, she accepted the challenge and put on a moving performance. With the help of a speech computer she can express herself. The graduate had to enter each letter individually in advance, and the words were then spoken by a computer voice while Bonker stood at the desk. “God gave you a voice. Use it,” she urged her classmates in her speech entitled “Be the light.”

Autistic found her way despite resistance

She did not hesitate to openly address her limitations. “The irony of a non-speaking autistic woman encouraging you to use your voice didn’t escape me. Because if you can see value in me, you can see value in everyone you meet,” Bonker said. She herself had “fought all her life not to be heard or accepted”. This also applies to the final speech: her headmaster wanted to prevent her from giving the speech.

She is all the more proud of what she has achieved: “Every day I decide to celebrate small victories, and today I celebrate a big victory with you all.” About 25 to 30 percent of children diagnosed with autism cannot speak. She herself is one of the few who was taught to type, says Bonker. The ability to use a voice computer freed her mind from a “dumb cage,” the college graduate said.

31 million autistic non-speakers in the world

That’s why Bonker would like to get involved after graduating with those who, being autistic, also lack the ability to speak. She wants to dedicate her life to freeing the world’s 31 million autistic non-speakers “from their suffering in silence and giving them a voice to choose their own path”. She has already set up a charitable organization for this purpose. She has also released a book of poetry and two songs on which she was backed by Tom Morello, guitarist for rock band Rage Against The Machine.

Sources: NPR / Rollins College on Youtube / Rollins College

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The article is in German

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