Carly Fleischmann is probably by now quite a well known voice of Autism globally. A teenager with Autism who is still pretty much non-verbal, she broke through communication barriers after years of therapy when her therapists discovered she was able to spell through typing. From then, her therapists and parents kept persevering to push her to communicate this way and after months of hard work, she started to open up to them and help them understand her better.
Her story was first told on ABC, and then got picked up by various media in North America. It seems that Carly has also realized the power her voice has, and the interest people have in her, as she has now learned to articulate her thoughts and feelings on Facebook and Twitter which have garnered thousands of followers. She has also appeared on several shows, including, most recently, "The Doctors."
The book "Carly's Voice" is written mostly by her dad, Arthur Fleischmann, but also contains a chapter at the end that is written by her and a chapter that is mostly excerpts of Q&As from Carly's Twitter feeds with her followers. While I have read about other people with autism, they are often ones with high functioning autism or asperger's syndrom. This is why Carly is so different and interesting to me (and probably to many others): no other person with autism who is also non-verbal has ever been able to communicate so clearly what it's like to live with pretty severe autism, AND with a language difficulty. As she wrote, "I now realize it wasn't that I didn't understand the words, it was that my brain couldn't focus directly on the conversation." What awareness!
As a therapist who has treated non-verbal children with autism, I was reminded again, through the chapters outlining the Fleischmann's early struggles with Carly, of the immense difficulties these families go through. I was also inspired by the perseverance of Carly's therapists - both her ABA therapist and speech-language pathologist -to help her communicate even when it seemed like she was making little progress early on. How many times have we worked with children wondering if anything is really getting through? Clearly an intelligent and opinionated young woman, Carly's witty remarks really left me wondering how many more kids out there are like her, with an inner voice just waiting for someone to find a way to make them heard. If she was born in a different family with fewer resources and if they hadn't pushed her in the same ways, would she have achieved this level of communication? I was inspired and proud that someone in our field had such a major role to play in helping someone who seemed completely closed off to the world get to where she is today.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. If you're a speechie or a parent with a kid with autism, please make this the next thing you read.