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I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice Hardcover – October 1, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews

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From the Inside Flap


I sometimes fear
That people cannot understand
That I hear.
And I know
That they don't believe I go
To every extreme
To try to express
My need to talk.
If only they could walk
In my shoes
They would share my news:
I am in here.
And trying to speak every day
In some kind of way.

Though she cannot speak, Elizabeth Bonker writes poetry that shines a light on the hidden inner world of autism and the world around us. I Am in Here is the spiritual journey of a mother and daughter who refuse to give up hope, who celebrate their victories, and who keep moving forward despite the obstacles. Elizabeth's poetry and her mother's stirring storytelling combine in this inspirational book to proclaim that there is always a reason to take the next step--with hope.|Elizabeth M. Bonker is a thirteen-year-old young lady with autism who cannot yet speak but who writes deeply revealing poetry, which was featured on PBS's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. She excels in school with an educational aide.

Virginia G. Breen is the mother of three beautiful children, two of whom are profoundly affected by autism. Besides working to heal her children, Virginia is a venture capitalist investing in high-tech companies, and she sits on both corporate and nonprofit boards. She studied computer science at Harvard, business at Columbia, and philosophy in Singapore.

Elizabeth and Virginia live in northern New Jersey.

From the Back Cover

"I Am in Here is at once heartbreaking and powerfully inspirational. Elizabeth and Virginia together find their way down the mystifying corridors of autism and arrive in a place of communication through poignant and memorable poetry. It is a lesson in life, love, determination, and awe."--Tom Brokaw, NBC News

"A powerful reminder that we all face battles in life, and together we can triumph. Elizabeth's story will inspire you to be victorious in your own battle, whatever it may be."--Robert F. Kennedy Jr., environmentalist and founder of Waterkeeper Alliance; author of Crimes Against Nature and Saint Francis of Assisi

"Elizabeth's beautiful poetry clearly shows that some individuals with autism who appear to be low-functioning have real abilities. Elizabeth's first words when she was able to type were 'Agony. I need to talk.'"--Temple Grandin, New York Times bestselling author

"Simply astonishing! Together mother and daughter walk through the bewildering maze of autism and end up producing a heartrending and wonder-filled story. Get this book."--Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and Streams of Living Water

"Many people underestimate the capacity for learning and growing in children with autism. Elizabeth was determined to communicate and express what she held deep inside. And Virginia never lost hope that her daughter would one day find her voice."--Suzanne Wright, cofounder of Autism Speaks

"Elizabeth is a true inspiration, and her beautiful poetry allows her to share her message so people notice her for who she is and not what people expect her to be."--Jenny McCarthy, president of Generation Rescue and New York Times bestselling author

"A brilliant look inside a brilliant child whose illuminating story will entertain and inform all of us who seek to grasp the dimensions of human intelligence and perseverance."--Sidney M. Baker, MD, founder of Autism360.org and Defeat Autism Now!

"A brilliant reminder that through our work we have the privilege of seeing some of the most profound examples of courage, determination, and the depth of human potential."--Dr. Theodosia Paclawskyj, PhD, BCBA, assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Kennedy Krieger Institute and The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Revell; First Edition edition (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800720717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800720711
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #571,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I rated this book 5 stars. I read it on my Kindle. I found it profoundly moving and bought the hard cover book. Every educator, every board of education, every student from 7 th grade on up, and parents of autistic children NEED to read this book. It is inspiring, heart breaking, hopeful and a testament to the will of the children and parents who do not give up, but fight every day to find the key to unlock the door to autism. It should be a gift from every Board of Education to every teacher and administrator in every school district. I Am in Here
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Format: Hardcover
I have two sons (one autistic, one neuro-typical) and understand what it is like to parent a child like Elizabeth. Ms. Breen is amazing in that she has maximized the potential of her two autistic children, provided a stable and loving environment for her neuro-typical child, and managed to hang on to her VC job and multiple directorships. I am not sure about her marriage as the husband gets almost no mention.
This is what I liked about the book. (My perspective is affected by reading about 50+ books and blogs about parenting autistic children). 1. The main point - nonverbal child gets a voice is inspiring for many parents. The depth of Elizabeth's poetry demonstrates how much unrecognized (and often unrealized) potential autistic kids have. 2. The account of navigating through the school system is useful as well. 3. It shows that access to resources (good school system and personal funds to hire aides, fund ABA, Soma's camp, etc.) makes an enormous difference in autistic kids' outcomes. 4. It validates the effectiveness of Soma's method by showing a reasonable outcome. (All those books telling you that ABA and GFCF diet cured kids of autism in 6-12 months are an insult to the parents with more severely affected children. )
This is what I found disappointing. 1. At times, the book is more about the mother than the child. I understand Ms. Breen's need to make her good deeds known to the world, but I bought the book to learn about Elizabeth, not her. That said, I would've liked to see more details about Elizabeth's progress, the mechanics of using the letterboard in the classroom, or even Ms. Breen's honest account of professional and marital challenges as I am sure one of those areas, if not both, had to take a hit.
In summary, the book is mis-marketed: it is sold as Elizabeth's story, but padded very heavily with Ms. Breen's adventures and loosely related stories about `how people' with much of it done in a very religious/Christian tone. Two stars.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had the opportunity to meet Elizabeth and her mother recently at an Autism Speaks walk in New Jersey. This book gives me hope that my 5 year old autistic daughter will someday find her own "voice" in whatever way works for her. It is also a reminder that you should never underesimate what intelligence and feelings lie within the brains and hearts of those with autism.
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Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Bonker can't speak, yet she "talks" in this book in a voice that will shake your soul.

There were so many times when I was deeply moved by this book: sometimes by the breathtaking simplicity and directness of Elizabeth's poetry, sometimes by the tireless determination and persistence of her mother, Virginia. Both tell a compelling and emotional story which will not fail to speak to your heart.

Elizabeth's story, told so beautifully and succinctly (and without a trace of self-pity) through her poetry and short explanations, gives an invaluable insight into the mind and heart of a girl/young woman struggling within the prison of autism.

Virginia's story, one of unbelievable determination, persistence and faith, will inspire, fortify and give hope to all parents, especially those struggling with a child's special needs, but also with those who do not face those struggles (like me).

This book transcends "mere" topics of Autism, parenting, and faith and will be an inspiring read for all who are lucky enough to pick it up.
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Format: Hardcover
The author explores her and her autistic daughter's spiritual growth. It's more than a step by step memoir of diagnosis and treatment as they explore the nature of God and the meaning of suffering. I would have liked a little more biographical info. For example, who is "Roy" - the author's husband and/or father of one, two or all three of her children? She has three children, two of them autistic, but rarely mentions the older two. It would also have been good to give more detail about the mechanics of using the letter board.
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Format: Hardcover
What an inspiring book! I was amazed at Elizabeth's ability to write such beautiful poetry and express what it must feel like to be non verbal with so much clarity and emotion. My eleven year old son is also non verbal and reading this book was like finding an amazing insight into the emotions he must be feeling and living with on a daily basis. It has actually made me change the way I respond to some of his behaviors based on Elizabeth's explanations of why she reacts the way she does in certain situations. The way Elizabeth so eloquently explained her faith in God and her hope in a bright future brought me to tears. Virginia's stories that weave this book together are equally inspiring. This is a family that has experienced terrible tragedy, but still finds enough left in the emotional tank to volunteer, give back and write a very moving book. If you have a loved one with autism, this is a must read. If you work with children with autism this will blow the doors off of any pre-conceived notions of the academic abilities of non verbal children. Thanks to Elizabeth and Virginia for giving a voice to all of the children with autism who can not speak for themselves.
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