Sef Scott is a graduating senior at Plano Senior High School in north Texas. The young man, who self-describes during his speech as having autism as well as a social communication disorder, brought a crowd to their feet following a six-minute speech at his school’s graduation ceremony as CBS6 reports.
Delivering his oration with confidence, the 17-year-old Scott spoke about so many of the challenges in his own life and how they may relate to others facing their own set of hardships. Sef was quick to share credit with his younger brother, Sin, who survived a bout with brain cancer and helped him write the speech along with his mother – as well as with his personal mentor and faculty member Brittney Love.
“I would imagine that to the seniors that know who I am that it is entirely unexpected that I would be standing here giving a speech,” Scott said. “I have autism and a social communication disorder. While I have the ability – while I have a vocabulary that you do and I have the ability to physically produce spoken words, it is not the normal thing for me to electively speak. Just by my being here, speaking to all of you – that alone is unexpected… Don’t follow someone else’s dreams. Don’t waste time on something you never wanted. Do the unexpected. 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 does not make it wrong… Be the unexpected like me. Do the unexpected for the benefit of others. Live the unexpected for your own happiness.”
The high school’s assistant principal, Bryan Spiritus, says that he does hear Sef speak regularly, though usually in the form of private speech, or speaking aloud to oneself. Sef, he explains to clarify, usually does not talk to others. It is not an inability to do so that prevents him says Spiritus; Sef is bright and possesses the vocabulary – but due to his autism he often elects not to speak, excepting a few trusted friends and family members. Autism Speaks, a leading organization dedicated to helping spread awareness of and research into Autism Spectrum Disorder, estimates that 1 in 59 American children has some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD.
Sef’s speech was met by an audience paying rapt attention, offering up earnest laughter when called for. Some in attendance were seen crying, openly weeping, overcome by emotion.
One of those people was Sef’s mother, Vicki Scott. She described her son as being very cognizant of the workings of the world around him, highly intelligent, but challenged by social engagement, the IB Times reports.
“He knows exactly what’s going on around him, but he doesn’t engage. Something about his spectrum doesn’t allow him to have the back and forth like you and I are… 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,” said Vicki. “It affected me so profoundly. I could hear all around me, other people were crying, too.”
Sef’s friend and faculty member Brittney Love was also unable to hold back tears as she witnessed him speaking in front of nearly 2,000 of his fellow students and about 8,000 others in attendance for the graduation ceremony. “I was so overwhelmed. I was literally so proud,” she recalls.
“I was just so happy to be a part of that.”
Sef Scott’s speech ended in a standing ovation for his heartfelt words and courage in speaking in so front of so many people.