Today we present Carly Fleischmann, author of the extraordinary book Carly’s Voice, in which she tells the story of how, as a teenage girl with autism, she was able to establish contact with the world thanks to technology.
Today, she’s an author of a book, has written a song performed by Lil Jaxe and Kaitlin Kozell, and has even started her own talk show. Speechless is the first ever show hosted by a person with autism, not to mention someone who is unable to speak
All this has been possible thanks the support from her family, intense therapy during childhood, and, first and foremost, Carly’s outstanding determination to speak ‘with her own voice’.
Diagnosis and therapy
Carly Fleischmann was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. It became clear then that the girl is different from her twin sister. During the earliest years of her life, she had difficulty with walking, sitting, and basic development. Her parents were told that her intellectual ability would never exceed that of a several-year- old child. They decided to have Carly undergo intense behavioural therapy, which helped Carly learn to communicate with the world.
‘This took about 40 to 60 hours a week of one-to- one therapy’, says Carly’s dad. He recalls that three or four therapists used to work with the girl. ‘If some method didn’t work, we tried another one’.
But the real breakthrough came later. When Carly was 10 years old, she typed her first words on a computer keyboard: ‘help teeth hurt’. Since she had never been taught these words, they gave Carly’s parents and therapists a clear signal that Carly was aware of what she was doing and able to act on her own. The road to using a computer and keyboard was not a simple one. During later attempts, the girl refused to work with a computer. Her therapists decided that from that time on, whenever Carly would need anything, she’d have to type it out. After several months, she began to communicate her needs in this way, and with time, to formulate her thoughts: ‘People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can’t speak’, she wrote. Her dad, who accompanies her in her media presence (among other things, he’s the co- author of the book), said what shook him the most was Carly’s confession that she didn’t really know what was happening in her body and that she wanted him to be able to see what it was like to be in her body and fight against all those impulses she faced every day.
Carly describes the world as seen through the eyes of a person with autism in a simple, vivid, and sometimes literal manner. This clip featuring Carly shows what an ordinary visit at a café can look like to a person with autism:
Sometimes she also explains in a straightforward fashion the many issues related to autism spectrum disorders. She says that autostimulation is something that to some degree concerns all of us: rubbing your hands, snapping your fingers, or tapping your legs are all a type of autostimulation, or uncontrolled movements that ‘help’ us focus or relax. The difference is that in persons with autism spectrum disorders, this autostimulation takes a socially unacceptable form
Thanks to her attitude, bravery, and straightforwardness in the way she talks about the disorder, Carly has become the voice of many people with autism. Her book is the story of a girl who never said a single word, yet wanted dearly to express her feelings. With the aid of technology, Carly was able to speak out not just in her own name, but in the name of all persons with autism spectrum disorders, who often feel imprisoned in their own bodies. We recommend Carly’s Voice as a good read for the summer holidays. We also hope that Carly’s example will be an inspiration for persons with autism and their parents as well as all those who face various physical or intellectual limitations on a daily basis. Carly’s story is a source of motivation for all of us!