I Am in Here

The Journey of a Child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice

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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.

See Elizabeth Bonker and Virginia Breen speak at TEDMED:


"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

"Elizabeth's beautiful poetry clearly shows that even though she is nonverbal, she has a good mind and is able to type independently. Her writings show that some individuals with autism who appear to be low functioning have real abilities. Both parents and educators should teach independent typing to children with autism who remain nonverbal. Elizabeth's first words when she was able to type were 'Agony I need to talk.'"--Temple Grandin, New York Times bestselling author

"I Am in Here is 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

"Elizabeth's story is one that so many families confront. 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

"I Am in Here is a powerful reminder that we all face battles in life, and together we can triumph. Elizabeth's poignant poetry is a victory over autism. Her story and those of other 'How People' in this book 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 has such a strong voice even without the ability to speak. She is a true inspiration, and her beautiful poetry allows her to embrace and 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

"For any parent who has stared into the abyss, this story of a mother's agonizing but uplifting spiritual journey--and an autistic daughter's equally remarkable quest to communicate through poetry--is a must-read."--Robert Faw, PBS correspondent

"'See me. I am in here!' Elizabeth's words give voice to the need we all have to be seen by our quiddities and strengths--not by our label. No label is more blinding than the gaze-averting strangeness of autism's silence. In this book Elizabeth and her mom give us 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!

"I Am in Here is a wonderful meeting of voices. They are the voices of Elizabeth and her mother, Virginia, voices in poetry and prose, feelings and reality that stand up side by side to move the reader. Elizabeth reminds us of the loneliness that is felt when one is constantly fighting one's own sensory challenges alone. Virginia's concerns remind us of the continuous worry that a parent of an autistic person has to endure. This book is a great eye-opener, helping all of us to realize how autism impacts not only the autistic but also their loved ones."--Soma Mukhopadhyay, international authority on autism communication; founder of Helping Autism through Learning and Outreach; founder of Academy of Excellence for Autism

"Every professional working with people with autism and their families should read this book. Within it, we can find the inspiration to rededicate ourselves to putting forth our utmost effort to help people with autism access the best of what life has to offer. But it is also 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 of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

"Stories like Virginia's and Elizabeth's need to be told. They have produced an incredibly poignant and stirring portrait of a mother and daughter battling autism together and achieving something truly beautiful along the way."--Katie Wright, board member of National Autism Association, SafeMinds, and Generation Rescue

"Elizabeth shatters the myth that our children are content in their silence and have little to say. To the contrary, they are bright and articulate but need their parents and providers to find the pathway out of their autism so they can express themselves. The results are worth the Herculean effort. Mainstream medicine tells us to 'face facts,' 'accept the diagnosis,' even 'cut your losses.' Never. Virginia and Elizabeth prove that autism is what a child has, not who she is--and they do so with grace and style."--Kim Stagliano, mother of three girls with autism; author of All I Can Handle; managing editor of Age of Autism

"We are once again invited to look beneath the surface and beyond the present if we are to encounter the beauty of the person within. . . . We are indeed blessed by hearing through her poetry Elizabeth's beautiful voice that has been hidden within for so long."--Laurence A. Becker, PhD, founder of Creative Learning Environments; producer of the international award-winning documentary film With Eyes Wide Open

"God heals in many ways, and I Am in Here is an inspiring testimony to just how many ways it can happen. In striking, heartfelt prose that complements her daughter's deeply moving poetry, Virginia Breen takes us on a beautiful and heartbreaking journey into the healing power of words, the healing power of prayer, and the healing power of a mother's love. Elizabeth's poetry doesn't just give voice to her own struggle--it gives a word of hope to us all. This book is for anyone who refuses to give up, regardless of how or when help might come."--Rev. William L. Vaswig, author of I Prayed, He Answered

"I Am in Here is a window into the soul and mind of autism--and a clear view of the exquisite beauty and power of maternal love. It is both agonizingly painful to read and surprisingly uplifting. It is an ode to courage and perseverance: a reminder that 'failure is not an option' and that we, the parents, will never give up until our children are cured. This book is a work of art."--Judith Chinitz, MS, MS, CNC, New Star Nutritional Consulting; author of We Band of Mothers: Autism, My Son, and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet

"A beautiful gift of hope for children with autism and their parents. With humble poetry that pierces the heart, Elizabeth creates a bridge from the world of autism to the world that desperately wants to grasp it. The delicate combination of a child's meaningful words with a mother's insightful remarks allows this writing team to accomplish what they set out to do: promote peace and understanding."--Therese Borchard, author of Beyond Blue

"The story of Elizabeth and Virginia is a story of love and determination. It is also a commentary with universal application. Not only do we readers feel a new compassion for autistic children and their families, but ironically, we discover that our own human struggle to communicate our soul-self compels us to appreciate the joys and pains experienced within autism."--Dennis Morgan, philosopher and Virginia's high school English teacher

The Authors

  1. Elizabeth M. Bonker

    Elizabeth M. Bonker

    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 mainstream public school with an educational aide.

    Continue reading about Elizabeth M. Bonker

  2. Virginia G. Breen

    Virginia G. Breen

    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....

    Continue reading about Virginia G. Breen