DENVER – Doctors didn't give Ben Jenkins much of a shot. They said his autism might mean he'd never talk, and would likely be institutionalized. But Ben has learned to never use his autism as an excuse.
"The picture I had in my head was just from several movies that I had read and a couple of articles, and I pictured him sitting in the corner and rocking and just shutting out the world," Pamela Jenkins recalls, thinking about the day doctors diagnosed Ben with autism.
But the family was determined not to make autism the end of the road. They put Ben through full-time therapy starting at age five. His lead therapist was Dr. Annette Nunez.
"When I started therapy with him, he was middle functioning," she said. "He didn't have any spontaneous language."
But after a while Ben started to progress, thanks in large part to a suggestion by his mother. Therapists asked Pam what Ben was interested in – she told them she thought he would be musical.
So Pam got Ben an audition with a piano teacher.
"He had heard Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue," Pam said. "So he went up to the piano and he played the major bridge of the song with two fingers and he kept going and going and she was really surprised – she expected Mary Had a Little Lamb or something."
"I realized I'm really in love with music," Ben said. "Life was basically about music, that's why I got in touch with it. It's like a partner and a companion."
Ben used his talents throughout high school at the Denver School of the Arts. But some thought he still wouldn't go to college.
That is until April 6, when Ben was accepted to the Berklee School of Music, a prestigious college in Boston. The only problem was Ben's family had spent his college fund on therapy for him.
So Ben started a summer concert series to raise money. He even made a CD, which you can purchase here. Administrators at Berklee were so moved by Ben's story, his family said they decided to offer him a four-year scholarship.
Now Ben continues to raise money for a feature length documentary about his story and his first year at Berklee.
To learn more about Ben's story, click here.
Watch Ben play Rhapsody in Blue below: