Ms. Elizabeth Bonker, who has nonspeaking autism, is the most recent valedictorian of Rollins College of Winter Park, Florida. The commencement address given was one of the most significant and powerful of any across the nation.
"Life is for service." are the words Ms. ElizabethBonker has embedded into the minds and spirits of those she encounters in her life. Mr. Fred Rogers, a famous Rollins graduate, continues to inspire others through simple words as well.
Ms.Bonker communicated her speech through a text-to-speech element.
This remarkable young woman typed her remarks using only one finger with the help of a technical communication aide. Individuals with non-verbal autism have extreme difficulty in the composition of speech and its complex development. In addition, neuromotor issues can inhibit communication and the ability to perform simple tasks.
The development of the ability to type changes the world for these individuals in the present day.
Typing changes everything.
Ms. Elizabeth Bonker stated the following during her commencement speech, "That one critical intervention unlocked my mind from its silent cage". A study on Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2018 stated that approximately 25% to 30% of individuals diagnosed with Autism are non-verbal. This specific definition has a broad range. It can range from no speech to a small set of sounds or words. There are approximately 31 million people across the globe that have been diagnosed with a non-verbal autism spectrum disorder.
Ms. Bonker relates her thoughts with the following communicated through text-to-speech:
"I have a dream. Communication for all," she said. "My life will be dedicated to relieving them from suffering in silence." She encourages other students to hold fast to their freedoms to choose their own way in life and considers this to be a "fundamental human right." Her admiration of Mr. Fred Rogers is evident in her personal life mission. "We are all called to serve as an everyday act of humility; as a habit of mind; to see the worth in every person we serve," she said.
Ms. Elizabeth Bonker earned a 4.0 Grade Point Average at Rollins College. Her fellow valedictorians chose her to represent their college unanimously. "Elizabeth's message has given hope to millions of people who are nonspeaking autistic, and their families," Rollins College President Grant Cornwell said in a statement provided to CNN. "We are thrilled for Elizabeth and hope the attention to her story supports her advocacy work going forward."
"Elizabeth's message has given hope to millions of people who are nonspeaking autistic, and their families," Rollins College President Grant Cornwell said in a statement provided to CNN. "We are thrilled for Elizabeth and hope the attention to her story supports her advocacy work going forward."
Ms. Elizabeth Bonker has been an inspiration for all who cross her path. She meets challenges and encourages others to do the same. She even founded Communication 4 ALL, a nonprofit organization that supports her dream of ending stigma and giving a voice to nonspeaking people with autism.