The World Within: Author Jenna Lumbard



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Posted on December 29, 2009 at 4:58 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 2 at 12:31 PM

Something's bothering Jenna Lumbard. Locked deep inside autism's shell, unable to speak, this 21-year old has never been able to say what's wrong. But with a few taps on a keyboard, her computer can.

We've come to Jenna's home to find out, firsthand, what it's like to have autism.

"And I thought it was important for parents of children of autistic children to understand even when we can't talk, it doesn't mean that we don't have anything to say," said Jenna. "Autism doesn't necessarily mean retardation and sometimes I think people forget that."

Growing up, Jenna received intensive therapy. She attended early intervention preschool. She learned to read very quickly.  But she couldn't bridge the language gap with her parents.

"You can imagine what it it's like if you think about having a baby that is crying and you don't know what's wrong," said Jenna.

Then at age 8, Jenna sat in front of a computer and wrote her first message to her mother.

"I love you Mom. Don't worry so much about me," she said.

It was a breakthrough moment for the entire family

"It just gave me hope and happiness that maybe we can move forward," said mom, Linda.

From simple messages, Jenna began writing stories, poems and letters.

A test showed that by the third grade, Jenna had the IQ of a college student.

"She is amazing. She can be the funniest kid ever," said Janet Milhollin, who has been helping Jenna communicate since kindergarten.

"She is my favorite friend. Without her I would still live in my silent world," said Jenna.

But Jenna is hardly silent anymore.  She has even written a book - "Worried Wendy Goes to School."

And she has a message for the families of autistic children.

"I have never doubted my parents love for me. Some things don't have to be said to be felt at the heart," she said. "I think that's how it is with a love between a parent and a child. I love to make my parents happy whenever I can because they spend so much of their life making me happy."

Jenna promises more worried Wendy books are on the way, but the real breakthrough is the one she's made with her family.

"I can't even imagine now if I didn't have that connection with her--that I felt there was some kind of wall between us. I feel like I'm one of the lucky ones," said Linda.