Berkeley universities

2 UC Berkeley students make history as first non-speaking graduates with autism

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) – Someone once said, “Nothing is impossible as long as you believe in it.” That best describes two non-speaking autistic students at UC Berkeley who graduated with honors this week. This is a big step for them and for Cal.

Five years ago, David Teplitz decided to embark on a path never taken before at UC Berkeley. He suffers from non-verbal autism.

ABC7 News Senior Reporter Lyanne Melendez sat down with David and his mother as he showed us how he communicated via a touchscreen program on his laptop.

Without looking at the keyboard, he types one letter at a time.

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Lyanne asked him what he wanted people to know about people like him with autism who don’t speak.

Again, this takes David’s time, but he is thorough and thoughtful.

“I want people to know that we can accomplish a lot if we are able to participate,” David’s response appears on screen.

David and his friend Hari Srinivasen paved the way for other Cal students with similar disabilities.

Both were diagnosed with apraxia. So, for the majority of people, the brain is able to coordinate how my jaw, lips, tongue, and soft palate come together to produce sounds and words. But Hari and David struggle to make all these moves.

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Despite the challenges, Hari achieved a 4.0 GPA and has now received a scholarship to pursue her PhD. in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University.

During his graduation ceremony, David was escorted by his assistant Devon Rodrigues. He earned a 3.85 GPA, receiving a degree in political science with a minor in disability studies.

“How does it feel to graduate from one of the best universities in the country?” Lyanne asked him.

“It’s especially wonderful to graduate from Cal. It’s been my dream for so many years and I’m proud to have accomplished it. I hope it inspires other non-speakers who want to go to school. ‘university to know it’s possible,’ he wrote.

A goal set by UC Berkeley that has helped improve the quality of life for people like David and Hari.

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