DENVER (CBS4) – A talented young man battling autism is determined to become a professional musician but his college money was all used up to get him this far.
Ben Jenkins graduated from the Denver School of the Arts. He wants to go on with his music but the expense of treating autism may rob him of the chance.
Jenkins is just 18 but plays piano like a professional.
“I would just like to keep that gift and share it always,” he said.
His incredible musical talent was discovered at age 6. It’s hard to believe that at 3 years old Ben was diagnosed with autism.
“Some doctors told me that I would never talk or understand anybody,” Jenkins said.
“We thought that’s it … it was like death to us,” Ben’s sister Bethany Lewis said.
Lewis says the family didn’t give up and tried several therapies. They eventually found Dr. Annette Nunez and ABA — applied behavior analysis.
“It actually is a type of therapy that breaks down skills into small teachable steps.
Without it, Nunez says Jenkins would be institutionalized. But 6 years of therapy is expensive. The Jenkins family spent their savings, lost their home and went bankrupt.
“I think everyone would give up everything again ,” Lewis said.
Now Nunez has a new mission.
“He has become like a son to me and I would do anything for him,” Nunez said.
That includes fundraising. Jenkins was accepted at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“It gives me all the power of the happiness that I need,” he said.
But it costs about $60,000 a year. Jenkins is doing concerts and Nunez is pleading for donations.
“I want him to share his talent and share his story,” Nunez said.
And develop his gift and live his dream.
But it isn’t just about Jenkins. He’s telling his story so people will realize intensive treatment of autism is pricey but can be very positive.