I had the opportunity to interview Jenna Lumbard by email. Jenna is 21 years old, autistic and nonverbal. As a mom on an autistic, nonverbal child, I was honored for this opportunity. Here are the questions and answers for the interview. It’s short, but revealing. Thank you, Jenna.
1. Hi Jenna. Can you introduce yourself to my readers and tell us a little about yourself?
I would be happy to introduce myself to your readers. My name is Jenna Lumbard. I’m 21 years old and I live in Camas, Washington with my mom and dad. I have lived in Camas my whole life. I went to school here and I graduated from Camas High School in June of 2006. I enjoy watching videos and spending time in the water. I also like to surf the internet whenever possible.
I am nonverbal and I have autism, but that didn’t stop me from following my dreams of being a writer. I have written one book and have had it published. It is called “Worried Wendy Goes to School” and I have a second book in the process of being published right now and it should come out in June of this year. I have always enjoyed writing and I find I have an abundance of words and pictures in my head that I want to share with the world. I’m happy, funny and at peace with who I am.
I hope this has given you a little insight into who I am.
2. As a mom of an extremely intelligent, nonverbal child, I am always irritated (to put it nicely) by people that assume that a child that doesn’t talk is intellectually low functioning. What I don’t know, (because my son has difficulties expressing his feelings) is how it affects him. Did you face this growing up, and if so, how did it affect you?
I’m glad you asked this question, because that has always been a concern of mine. I have a wonderful friend and mentor that has been my aide for the last seventeen years and whenever I met someone that I didn’t know I always ask Janet to be sure that they knew that I was not retarded and I was not deaf. For some reason people always assumed that just because I couldn’t talk it meant that I also couldn’t hear so they would yell at me and then they would talk about me like I wasn’t in the room or they talked down to me like I was a small child. I found that to be very frustrating and demeaning. If I was able to talk to them for a while they learned very quickly that I was smart and able to communicate via my computer, but if I was not around my computer I was always irritated by their behavior. It’s important that people don’t make assumptions about someone’s intelligence by their appearance or by the label of a handicap placed on them by the medical community.
3. Do you have any advice for other non-verbal children and their parents that you wish someone had told you growing up or told your parents?
There is one thing that I think is of the utmost importance and a piece of advice that would have served me well growing up. The advice is, it’s okay to be autistic. You don’t have to strive to be something else or wait for a miracle cure to go on living your life. As I mentioned before I had a wonderful aide who always told me the only thing she expected of me was the best I had to offer. She didn’t care if I was autistic or not she expected me to always try my hardest and never give up just because I had some obstacles to overcome. My family is very supportive and they have loved me through a lot of challenges, but they never expected less from me just because I have autism. I love them for that.