dave-mittlemanEric Duqette was born with autism and couldn’t speak until he was five-years-old.  His parents were told that their son would probably end up in an institution because of his inability to communicate.  Instead, Eric went on to surprise everyone when he became the salutatorian of his high school’s graduating class.  In addition, he was accepted to every single college to which he applied.

After learning of her son’s diagnosis, Eric’s mother, Judith Duqette, began working with her son to help him communicate.  In addition to professional therapy, she taught her son sign language by using signs and symbols printed on cards.  Now, Eric not only knows sign language and English, he also knows how to speak Spanish.  In fact, he placed 93rd in the entire nation on the Spanish V exam and is a member of the Spanish National Honor Society.

Eric inspired his entire class when he quoted from Daniel Webster: “if my possessions were taken from me with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all the rest”.  Eric added his own take on that quotation, stating: “For me, learning to communicate did mean regaining all the rest.”  Eric listed the number of colleges where he was accepted, as well as the scholarships that he was offered.  However, he wasn’t boasting—instead, he stated that he hopes that he will inspire his fellow students: “I tell you this so you do not allow yourself or others to be defined by your limitations but rather abilities. Never underestimate yourself.”  Eric will start at Rhode Island College next fall.  Please visit this site for the full video of Eric’s graduation speech.