Scott Putnam made a speech at graduation. It was the first time he had spoken. Using a computer and voice synthesizer, Putnam addressed 26 fellow graduates Wednesday at the Massachusetts Hospital School's Brayton High.
Putnam, 19, has cerebral palsy and can't speak naturally or use his arms or legs. He thanked the teachers and counselors who pushed him to overcome his handicap.
"I had some of my best times here, and some of my worst times," Putnam said.
"I have seen people come and go, and some of them have touched my life in different ways," he said. "If I could have one minute with each one of them, I would tell them thank you for whatever you did for me."
Putnam, wearing a maroon gown, sat in the electric wheelchair he controls by using his head to activate five switches in the headrest. He used a pointer attached to his head to touch a keyboard connected to his synthetic voice.
"He's a determined person (who plans) to go a long way in this world and get over his handicap," said his mother, Joanne Putnam, who cried during his speech. "He just wants to live a normal life."
Until graduation, Putnam's communication was limited to the painstaking process of selecting letters and words on a lap tray with a head pointer.
Putnam will take the computer with him to community college, where he will major in accounting.