WATCH: Valedictorian With Nonverbal Autism Calls on Classmates to Serve Others

A non-speaking woman with autism, who graduated as a valedictorian from Rollins College in Florida, emphasized to her classmates during her commencement speech Sunday, “God gave you a voice. Use it.”

Twenty-four-year-old valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker stated in a Rollins College profile article that she could speak as a toddler, but suddenly, at 15 months old, her “words were inexplicably taken from” her. Now, 23 years later, she has graduated at the top of her class after learning to type, which has allowed her to communicate and learn.

The valedictorian issued her address through a “text-to-speech computer program,” Southern Living noted.

During her speech, she highlighted that she and her fellow graduates were celebrating their “shared achievements” and recounted her journey:

I know something about shared achievements because I am affected by a form of autism that doesn’t allow me to speak. My neuromotor issues also prevent me from tying my shoes or buttoning a shirt without assistance. I have typed this speech with one finger with a communication partner holding a keyboard. I am one of the lucky few non-speaking autistics who have been taught to type. That one critical intervention unlocked my mind from its silent cage, enabling me to communicate and to be educated like my hero Helen Keller.

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