Hi, my name is Janet Milhollin and as Jenna’s aide, mentor, and friend I can only scratch the surface when it comes to telling you about all the things Jenna and I have learned from each other over the last 17 years.
Having never heard about autism, and certainly never having working with a child who was autistic before I met Jenna, I had a lot to learn in a short amount of time. One of the first things I learned was Jenna needed to feel safe in her environment and it was my job to help make that happen. There is much noise and confusion in a kindergarten classroom. Most kids have adapted to all that is going on, but I quickly learned that this extra stimulus caused great fear in Jenna and we learned together how to handle these situations so she could participate and thrive, but not feel threatened. As Jenna got older, we would go to other places like McDonalds and grocery stores so she could experience them. New places can be scary for any of us, but with Jenna’s extra challenges, her bravery throughout these situations has always amazed me.
Since second grade, when Jenna learned how to use a computer keyboard to get all her pent up words out of her head and down on paper, she has continued to amaze me with the beauty and eloquence of her words.
Over the years, I’ve become more skilled in talking in a gentle and soothing voice, listening with my heart and seeing the world through Jenna’s eyes. Jenna and I have both learned a lot about trust, tenacity, and patience, but most of all about tolerance, acceptance for a person who may look or act differently from you but still deserves to be heard and understood. A person who may not be able to talk, but still has a lot to say.