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Nonspeaking Valedictorian with Autism Shares Her Voice in Commencement Address

“Life is for service.” Those are the words Rollins College valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker lives by – words that inspired Rollins’ most famous graduate, Mr. Fred Rogers. Bonker, who is nonspeaking and has autism, gave a remarkable address during her school’s recent commencement ceremony in Winter Park, Florida.

Clad in a cap and gown decorated with flowers, Bonker explained, through a text-to-speech program, how she typed her remarks using a single finger with the help of a communication aide. People with nonspeaking autism have trouble developing speech, and in Bonker’s case, neuromotor issues inhibit her communication and her ability to do some other basic tasks.

Learning to type changed everything.

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