Overcoming Autism Obstacles

Catherine Crane

Autism affects more people than ever before, but it's rare to get a glimpse inside the life of someone living with autism, but one bright 18-year-old let us do just that.

Jessica Wennekamp is writing a book.

"I think it has a good chance at getting published," said Jessica.

The book centers around a character with special skills.

"I think writing is my special skill," said Jessica.

Like the characters in her book Jessica overcomes obstacles. She has autism. She's mastered many special skills, one of them is communication.

It's a giant step according to her mother, Irene Wennekamp, who says Jessica wasn't able to hold a conversation until she was in her teens.

"One day all of a sudden she said, 'How was your day mom?,'" said Irene. "That was something really simple for someone else, (it) was a huge deal for her. She didn't wave good bye to be until she was 5."

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects speech and behavior. Jessica now speaks about her experiences to help teachers understand what it's like in her shoes and how they can help others with autism.

"If anyone asks what I'm thinking about we'd be here for at least 2 days," said Jessica. "I have a lot going on up here. I guess we tend to think on a different level than everyone else. One of the coolest things about having autism is we don't judge."

Simple things can be hard for Jessica. The world can be louder, busier and more frustrating for people with autism.

Jessica was diagnosed when she was 5.

"What all parents want is the best life for their kid and to have the best life for your kid," said Irene. "If you don't know what they have or you're denying what's wrong then you can't do that for them."

"I would consider my mom to be what it means to be a devoted parent," said Jessica. "What it means to give your all, never give up on your child with a disability."

Jessica admits she's not like everyone else.

"In a way, I am different," said Jessica. "I'm never going to be like a normal teenager."

That's what makes her story so unique.

"Having a child with a disability has made me appreciate a lot and look at things differently," said Irene. What's important in life and what's not, accepting people the way that they are and so I actually think I'm sort of lucky in a way to have her."

"You can learn a lot of things from a person with autism," said Jessica.

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