Valedictorian with Non-Speaking Autism Gives Moving Commencement Speech

Elizabeth Bonker is a valedictorian who hasn’t spoken verbally since a young age after being diagnosed with non-verbal autism.

However, she’s perfectly aware of the power of communication and dedicated to making it better for non-verbal autistic individuals. 

In an inspiring and emotional commencement speech, she called to action all those who listened to her at the ceremony, including the millions of viewers on the internet. 

The Florida college valedictorian had a heartwarming and inspirational speech, without saying a single word. She relied on a specialized computer program to share her thoughts. 

The Inspiring Story of Elizabeth Bonker

At the age of one year and three months old, Bonker was diagnosed with a subset of autism known as nonverbal autism so she never learned how to speak. 

Although this seemed like the saddest news for the family at the time, today, she’s a successful and amazing woman with the proudest parents.

In her speech, Bonker said how she’s only of the few lucky non-speaking autistic people who’ve learned how to type. This helped her unlock her mind from the silent cage and gave her an opportunity to communicate with others and get an education.

Four other valedictorians nominated her to deliver a speech in front of the more than 500 graduates. 

In her speech, Bonker emphasized how God has given people a voice so that they use it; so if they can see the worth in her, they can see it in everyone they meet. 

For Bonker’s mom, Virginia, it was a special Mother’s Day as she watched her daughter deliver the speech. She was on the brink of tears because it was such a long journey for them with numerous moments when they felt hopeless.

Bonker explained that she’s not special and all students with autism who’re not using their audible voice can learn to type. This is her mission and she wants to change how people look at autism. 

She also added that just because someone doesn’t speak, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have thoughts and feelings.

Support, Advocate, Believe 

In her speech, this valedictorian also said that she’s hopeful that people will remember to be there for others, just like her mom was always there for her. 

She addressed all parents of kids with autism and told them how autistic kids are more than capable. They need to be supported, believed, and advocated for to fulfill their potential. 

Bonker will continue her service with her nonprofit Communication 4 All. The goal is to make this type of communication available for 31 million non-verbal autistic people throughout the world.