Aly Bonville and her twin brother, Anders, have done everything together for the past 18 years, so when it came time to graduate from high school, she wasn’t going to do it alone.
Anders was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old, which left him non-verbal. Because of this, he and Aly developed their own special language, which was ever so present on May 27, when they walked across the stage together to graduate from Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Alabama.
Aly and her mom, Benida Bonville, weren’t sure how Anders would react that day, since he often gets overwhelmed by crowds and loud noise, but he ended up persevering with nothing but a smile from ear to ear.
“He shows a lot of emotion through his eyes, so I could tell he wanted to say ‘I did it Aly, I did something really cool,’” Aly told TODAY.com.
Throughout the years, Aly has been his protector and caregiver. When Anders tried out a new school for fifth grade, Aly wanted to make sure that his peers understood him, so she created an “Ask Aly” box. Anders’ classmates would drop questions in a shoebox and then Aly would come in and answer them. The students wanted to know what his favorite color was, whether or not he would ever talk again and what it was like growing up with a brother with autism.
“This exercise broke the barrier and instead of them thinking of him as some weird kid, they started including him in classroom activities,” Aly said.
The Bonvilles found that most people are more accepting of Anders once they explain that he has autism.
“It’s been difficult, but it’s the only normal I’ve ever known,” Benida said. “Once I found out he was autistic, I was ready to do what I needed to do and that same drive was instilled in Aly. She’s been right there next to him; she’s his voice when I’m not there.”
Although Anders had difficulty communicating, his love of music was apparent. Growing up, the twins would dance as their mom played the guitar. This childhood memory inspired Aly to pick up instruments herself and play for her brother while he enjoyed swaying back and forth repeatedly.
“There were so few things we were able to do as a family and one of those things was music and that was so special for all of us,” Aly said. “I love music because I realize how much it brings people together.” She received a full scholarship to Auburn University, where she’ll pursue music in the fall with hopes of becoming a band director.
“Aly didn’t let graduation day be about her and her accomplishments,” Benida said. “I’m so happy that she wanted to share her shining moment with her brother.”
“I couldn’t have imagined that day any other way,” Aly said.