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Russell Lehmann

April is World Autism Awareness month. This lifelong developmental disability now affects 1 in 110 children. Autism affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people and how they make sense of the world around them.

Our featured author Russell Lehmann was diagnosed with high-functioning autism which makes normal social interaction challenging. However, he found an outlet for the challenges he has faced that developed into his inspiring debut book, Inside Out: Stories and Poems from an Autistic Mind. Lehmann's distinctive prose and poetry reveal a mind alive with compelling thoughts on a range of topics, including living with autism.

"I wanted to share my own experience of living with autism to help people better understand the disorder and to let others with autism know that there are people going through the same things they are," said Lehmann, who lives in Cold Springs north of Reno with his parents, Helm and Gretchen Lehmann.

"Closed on the outside, open on the inside. That's how I would describe myself living with autism. Throughout my whole life I have walked the long, lonely roads and have struggled to come out of many valleys. I have also had some triumphs, and poetry is one of them. I have written many poems that range from the mental and emotional struggles that are destined in life, my own personal hardships, the beauty and nature of the earth, and so on."

The Xlibris published author has also written articles about himself which have been published in magazines focusing on autism. These articles detail his incredibly hard life, in which he has overcome many challenges, such as those featured in some of his poetry. "Beautiful" is how Temple Grandin, one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World and the subject of the movie Temple Grandin, which was nominated for 15 Emmy awards, describes Lehmann's poetry.

Inside Out: Stories and Poems from an Autistic Mind contains poignant stories about struggles within a school system ill-equipped to help specially-able students. His book also shares lighter moments about his successes in sports with the help of an understanding coach before his family moved from Auburn, Washington, to Reno in 2007.

Lehmann is currently a part-time student studying history, U.S. government and comparative religions at Truckee Meadows Community College. He also actively promotes his book; his most recent book event took place last December at the Newton Learning Center in Spanish Springs for students with autism and Asperger's syndrome.

"They were just really excited to meet me, and a lot of them reminded me about myself when I was their age," he said. "They really loved the book, and it helped them cope with the disorder." Inside Out: Stories and Poems from an Autistic Mind is available at the Xlibris Bookstore.