Eric Duquette never spoke a word until he was five years old due to a severe form of Autism. Doctors warned his parents early on that the child would likely end up institutionalized due to his condition. The couple refused to accept that fate for their son, and worked with him every day on his speech and other motor skills. Recently, Eric graduated from high school in Rhode Island as the class Salutatorian. The speech in front of friends, family and classmates was humorous and touching.
At the beginning, Eric remarked that “Experts said I would end up in an institution. My parents thought differently. Today, I stand before you accepted into every institution of higher learning that I applied to. So in a way, I guess the experts were right about the institution thing.” That statement was met with thunderous applause and cheers from everyone in attendance.
Eric not only can speak the English language far better than anyone expected early on, he is also fluent in Spanish. He learned emotions the way some of us learn Calculus: through hard work and determination. “Do not let yourself be defined by your limitations, but rather abilities. Never underestimate yourself,” Eric quipped at the end of his speech.
This remarkable young man and his family worked to prove the experts wrong. They are a true testament to what can happen when you don’t accept what others believe of you, instead striving to make something even better of yourself. Eric will be studying Biology in college this fall, and we wish him the best of luck. I have a feeling that he will succeed far beyond anyone’s imagination.