My Name Is … Eileen Forlenza

Highlands Ranch mother teaches community about autism


I am 57, Holly is 31 and we moved to the Eastridge community of Highlands Ranch in May 1999, almost 22 years ago.

I graduated from Littleton High School in 1981 — the year Highlands Ranch was established. My husband Scott and our four children moved to Eastridge because of the access to the walking and biking trails and that our kids could walk to the recreation center — which established lifelong habits about the importance of fitness.

A passion for health care

I work in health care as a quality improvement coach for Colorado Access. I love the work I do because throughout Holly’s life I’ve advocated for a quality and inclusive approach to health care, so I’m thrilled to braid my personal and professional roles to help others.

Holly was diagnosed at age 2 with epilepsy, mild hearing loss and profound mental retardation (now referred to as cognitive/intellectual disability) and later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Holly is non-verbal — the only sound she makes is laughter. Even though she received intensive therapy and special education services throughout her childhood, she remained “locked” in silence.

Alas, at the age of 21, her silence was broken when her literacy was discovered by an inclusion expert. After months of more intense therapy, Holly typed her first word on a simple keyboard, pecking one letter at a time. Within two years, and with support from a facilitator, Holly typed “I want a platform to teach about love.” Since that day, we have shared Holly’s message through conferences, churches and publications. Holly’s upcoming autobiography will share her unique journey from tragedy to triumph, giving a voice to the voiceless.

A deeper understanding

We want our Highlands Ranch community to better understand the wisdom masked by autism. Holly understands everything going on around her on a very deep level. Through her silent prayers, Holly knows she is living a purpose driven life. Holly typed, “I know for certain that I was born this way for a purpose. I always knew I was loved, and I felt God understood me. I think God made my body this way because he wanted me to type good things for his glory. Sometimes I wish I could talk, but then I wouldn’t be who I am.”

We are big sports fans — all things football and baseball. We love hiking and enjoying long car rides in the mountains and Broncos games!

Holly’s ability to make God recognizable for others around her is extraordinary. While taking a hike on a windy day, Holly’s laughter was abundant. She grabbed her keyboard and explained “Wind is the people face of God. I love the wind because it’s like God. You feel it in a big way but can’t see it.”

If you have suggestions for My Name Is …, or if you would like to be featured in the segment, contact Elliott Wenzler at


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