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Boy who could barely speak to address thousands at college graduation

NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - Seated behind the controls of his college television studio, senior Rhyan Coleman is in full control.

With ease, he delivers commands, eyes on the screen, all while managing the switchboard.

It's a task his mother, Angela Simmons, considers nothing short of a miracle.

"It's special because Rhyan started off not speaking."

Simmons said she noticed a difference in Rhyan when he was three years old.  She later discovered he had echolalia, a common symptom among children with autism.

"He would just repeat what you said. He wouldn't hold a conversation."  

On Friday, the boy who could barely speak, will address thousands as a student-speaker during his commencement ceremony at Trident Technical College.

His mother credits the turnaround to a strong support system of teachers and peers, along with speech therapy and Coleman's avid love of reading.

"Whenever I think about how good people have been to him, it really makes me just so thankful, and so grateful that they're here in his life."

Randy Grimes, Coleman's media instructor at the college, said Rhyan is unlike any student he's ever met, one who's also challenged him to be a better teacher.

"Rhyan taught me patience," he said. "I had to learn how to be patient in helping him."

While Coleman wouldn't divulge the message of his commencement speech ahead of Friday's graduation, he said he was most proud to be walking across the stage.

"There is a next chapter to be written," he said.

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