Mostly Nonverbal Student With Autism Delivers Rousing 6-Minute Graduation Speech

He encouraged his classmates to do the unexpected.

Sef Scott is a recent graduate of Plano Senior High in Texas. He has autism, a spectrum disorder that's characterized by conditions which can impact speech, social skills, and behaviors. He is mostly considered nonverbal, but when it came time to his graduation, he stepped up to the podium.

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He surprised everyone by giving an empowering six-minute speech about following your dreams.

The rousing speech was shared on the Plano Independent School District's YouTube. After being introduced, Scott begins his speech with a strong statement, "Unexpected. That's what I want you to remember."

"Unexpected. First and foremost, I would imagine that, to the seniors who know me, that it's entirely unexpected that I would be standing here giving this speech." 

He explains that he's a student with learning differences who has autism. He reveals that he has a vocabulary much like the students, families, friends, and attendees at the graduation, and is capable of producing words, but it's "not in the normal theme for [him] to selectively speak."

Yet, he is standing on the stage delivering a graduation speech.

He credits his brother — who is a nine-year brain tumor survivor who frequently does speeches — and his mom for working with him, line by line, so he could have his voice heard.

As he continues, he makes jokes and talks about being unexpected. He champions going after your dreams rather than someone else's, because it can lead to happiness and "be a blessing to those around you."

He says through simple gestures, such as saying thank you or performing a random act of kindness, "you can sprinkle unexpected moments throughout your everyday life that can benefit those around you with very little effort on your part.”

The "biggest unexpected," however,  Scott says is the future. He recognizes that some people might not have any plans besides the day immediately in front of them, while others have their whole lives worked out. He thinks most people fall somewhere in the middle. No matter where a person is, he encourages everyone to be unexpected and follow their path.

"Ask yourself: Are your next steps where you want to go?" he prompted. "If they aren't, then step off of that path ... Don't follow someone else's dreams. Don't waste time on something you never wanted. Do the unexpected."

He continues, "It is your life that you are living, not anyone else's, so do what fulfills you. Don't fear the future. Don't fear the unknown. Will it be unexpected? Yes, yes it will, but that doesn't make it wrong."

The inspiring speech is resonating with people beyond high school graduates. Since it was posted June 11, it has over 33,000 views.

"Our goal was to have his voice heard in whatever way he could manage, and so many people have taken away so much more than I ever expected," Scott's mom, Vicki, told WFAA. "It affected me so profoundly. I could hear all around me, other people were crying, too."

Scott describes the experience as "exciting." As for his future, he plans to participate in Adult Transition Services in August to learn more independence. 

(H/T: USA Today)

Cover image via  Nirat.pix I Shutterstock

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