JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As we focus on love around Valentine's Day, there are many different kinds of love.
Love for your spouse. Love for your children. But the focus of this story is on the love between friends.
Friends whose bond is like no other.
Two years ago, I introduced you to Lanier Weed. She had just made an incredible breakthrough in her life.
She was finally able to communicate after 16 years of feeling trapped in her own body and mind. Lanier has a severe form of autism which makes her unable to speak. But, with the help of Morgan Tiner, a trained facilitative communicator, she was finally able to say her first words by typing them out on an iPad.
"Thank you for releasing my voice" is what Lanier typed. And, then she wrote "Tell my mom I love her. And, tell my dad I love him and he's my hero." This was a game-changer for Lanier. Her mom, Leslie Weed had not known until that time if Lanier even understood the world around her.
Fast forward to today, and Lanier is 18. She can type faster. And, during my interview Lanier is jumping up and down clapping for joy as she talks to everyone.
In the room with us is Gentry Groshell, Lanier's best friend. And, like most best friends there is a connection that only the two can share. Gentry also can not speak because of autism. "Our relationship is awesome. And, we tell our friends we are smart," Lanier types.
For their moms, this is such a gift because they know their girls have someone who truly "gets" it. Someone who knows what it's like to feel trapped in a world in which they could not communicate.
"I feel like they can be human. Gentry talks about a great hope. And, I think that's all we want for our kids are hope and relationships," says Gentry's mom Amy Groshell as she tries to hide her tears of joy.
Lanier and Gentry do almost everything together. They ride go-karts, go bowling and most recently they went to Tim Tebow's Night to Shine Prom with their boyfriends.
Like all true friends, sometimes words are not needed. But when they are, Lanier and Gentry now have a way to reach each other in a world that only the two of them can truly understand.
Lanier and Gentry are both now advocates to help other children who can not speak because of autism to find their voices through the facilitative communication program on the iPads. Lanier and her mom Leslie Weed are both planning to address the Autism One conference in Chicago in May.
And, there is a way you can help other local children like Lanier and Gentry. HEAL (Heal Every Autistic Life) is hosting it's annual gala this Thursday, Feb.18 at the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse. All the money raised goes toward providing iPads for our local schools and teachers. In the past few years, HEAL has donated about 100 of the iPads for the purpose of helping children with autism learn and grow. If you'd like to help or attend the gala just go to the HEAL website for more info. http://www.healautismnow.org