Carly Fleischmann blogs about her journey with autism
Published Wednesday, March 23, 2011 2:59PM EDT
CTV.ca would like to re-introduce you to Carly Fleischmann, a young woman who astounded experts by breaking through her shell in a way no one could have anticipated.
When we first profiled Carly's story nearly three years ago, she was mastering the art of writing by computer -- a slow process that was giving her a new voice.
Now, Carly is 15 and attending a mainstream high school in Toronto.
Here, she provides CTV a blog in which she will write about her thoughts and answer some questions from viewers curious about her take on this disorder.
You can send your question to Carly by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As most of you know, since September, I have been going to a typical high school with typical students and I'm currently taking gifted Grade 9 classes.
For my gifted technology class, I have to do an Integrated Enrichment Study project. The point of the project is to encourage students to find a topic that interests them and to have the student learn about the topic and implement a project based on their topic.
(One student last year did his project on making and producing a movie. His movie ended up making it to film festivals and received awards.)
My topic was learning about different interview styles. I have always been asked many questions, ever since I could spell, but I have never been on the other side of the table asking the hard questions.
For my project, I wanted to interview four celebrities and tell their stories in a whole new way. I thought by me doing these interviews, it would show people like you that just because I can't talk out of my mouth doesn't mean I don't have a lot to say or a lot of questions to ask. It may also change the way you or other people think of autistic people, in general.
My idol, Temple Grandin, was just at an award show where the story about her life won a big award. Her movie showed parents that have children with autism never to give up. My hope is to show people with autism and their parents that just because words don't always come out of our mouths, doesn't mean we are silent. We still have a lot to contribute.
My project started off really fun. I watched a lot of interesting interviews, read a lot of books about being the best journalist you can be, and I was making a lot of headway in getting the celebrities I thought you would like me to interview. I ended up getting some big names and started confirming my dates and times, like a good journalist does, according to all the books.
I ended up flying from Toronto to L.A. on March break and was so excited I almost couldn't contain myself. Here I was, an autistic girl on an airplane, about to rub shoulders with people I see on TV all the time. My brain flooded with lots of questions: How was I going to act? How were they going to act? Would they be patient and let me interview them? Would they take me seriously?
To read more about how Carly's interviews and the rest of the class project went, head over to her webpage, www.carlysvoice.com
Friday, Jan. 21
The word communication is everywhere I go. That is what is supposedly going on around me. With the world changing faster and faster thanks to technology, does the word communication still mean what it did three or four years ago?
One of my teachers in my Grade 9 mainstream class said that communication or to communicate means "a dialogue between two or more life forms that conveys information such as experience, wants, needs or random knowledge." However, if you asked most people three to four years ago how they communicated, they would have said on the phone at work or in person with their friends or colleagues. Thanks to all the social media webpages, so-called smartphones and other video chats, today, the word communication has taken on more meanings.
Have you ever once just sat down and really thought about how important it is to be able to communicate in this world? What if something happened to you and you weren't able to communicate? Would you still be able to do the same job you are in now? Would you be able to continue to have the exact same relationships with the people that mean a lot to you in your life? Would you be able to request or get basic things you need in your life and how would you react if you couldn't get them?
There are lots of people out in the world who do not have a voice. However, that does not mean they do not communicate. I am not just talking about people with autism. There are many syndromes, diseases and disorders that stop people from being able to talk. But it does not stop them from being able to communicate. Before I could spell or sign or use picture symbols, I still communicated. I pointed and gestured for my needs and wants and found other ways to express my point of view.
With technology moving as fast as it has been going, more people are starting to be able to communicate and share their words with us all, including me. Thanks to the iPad and programs like Proloquo2go or WordQ which has word prediction, a lot more voices have a chance to shine.
I am able to type and, thanks to my computer program that talks out text, I am able to be heard. But even before I had that program, I still found a way to communicate. I had a party with my sister when we were younger and my sister was giving a speech. I was not sure how I was going to give mine. See, I knew I could write it but how was I going to get people to hear it? I ended up asking someone I thought would be the perfect voice for me. She had the timing that I wanted in my jokes and she sounded serious when I wanted her to. I felt a big connection with her, not just because we shared the same birthday but because I felt that her inner voice was the same as mine.
I have been thanking her ever since for being my voice and communicating my message to my family and friends.
On January 26, it's both our birthdays and I want to wish her a happy birthday and tell her that now, thanks to technology, I have a voice but thanks to her I had the perfect way to communicate the message to everyone around me. So, happy birthday.
A wise person once told me that spoken words don't always mean you are communicating. Real communication comes from the inside.
So, just because you can't hear a person doesn't mean he or she doesn't have a lot to say.
Your girl that keeps on communicating in so many unconventional and conventional ways,
Thursday, Dec. 9
I had a different topic picked out for my second blog however, a story was told to me that touched my heart so much, I felt it was only fitting to talk about it.
On Saturday December fourth, Robert Capovilla a 16-year-old, diagnosed with autism, wandered away from his Mississauga home around 2 p.m. Right after Robert went missing more than 60 police officers from Peel and Halton regions went to work to help try to bring this amazing 16 year old home.
According to the news, officers canvassed Robert's favourite hangouts, McDonalds, Harvey's Swiss Chalet and other fast food places. Robert's story started to get out and over a dozen tow truck drivers who had a connection to the family started joining in the search.
The news claimed that Robert, a 16 year old boy, was really only at an 8 year old mental level. However Robert was able to take the TTC, the Toronto transit, all the way downtown. The incredible tow truck drivers that where involved in the search heard a TTC driver say over his radio that he spotted Robert and off the police and tow truck drivers went. At this point Robert was missing for over 22 hours. Robert was able to survive the cold and the Toronto streets and even Robert says he was able to find food. According to the story I heard Robert told his mother he ate food at a Swiss Chalet. Go Robert go!
Thanks to the TTC employees, a dozen tow truck drivers and the hard work of the police, Robert made it home after being on the streets for 24 hours.
Robert's is a common story that does not always work out to be a happy one. Robert has amazing street skills that, no offense to the news, an eight year old does not have, but a 16 year old with autism had. His street skills allowed him to survive and allowed him to be found.
Robert's story puts fear in parents who have children with autism. However, his story also brings hope that a city such as Toronto can come together and help reunite this boy with his family.
What Robert did for over 24 hours, alone without his family, might always remain his secret but to me, Robert proved that even though we look helpless, we are still able to survive.
I would personally like to thank the police officers from Peel and Halton regions, tow truck drivers, TTC drivers and volunteers for bringing Robert back home safe and sound. Robert I want to say you are a special boy that has a lot of talent that is waiting to come out.
I'm so glad that you are home.
Your modest autism educator and autism believer,
Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010
For all of you who know about me and have followed me on my blog, carlysvoice.com, how cool is this? For all of you hearing about me and my story or reading this blog for the first time, my name is Carly Fleischmann and I have autism. I also have apraxia that prevents me from speaking with my mouth. I have learned how to communicate through the help of technology and now I am able to shed some light on the myths and misperceptions about autism.
I have always said that doctors and so-called experts only know a little piece about autism. How could they know the real pieces of autism when they aren't inside our heads and living with it for their whole lives. My hope with writing this blog is to help teach and educate people about autism and at the same time share with you a glimpse of my life, a cute girl living with autism. I will be answering questions from you, the reader, about autism and sharing my personal experiences at my high school which is a typical school. I have always gone to ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) schools and school board special needs classes but just this year I have earned an amazing opportunity to attend an unbelievable mainstream school.
People always are skeptical when they hear I can spell on my own. I always hear people say "she must be using Facilitated Communication" or ask "is someone telling her what to say?" The truth is I don't use Facilitated Communication and I think my parents wish they could put words in my mouth but I don't have a hand up my butt telling me what to say. Sorry mom and dad. LOL. Many well-known doctors in the autism field have seen me spell all by myself and do vouch that I do so independently.
I do believe every nonverbal autistic child and adult has an inner voice just waiting to come out. A wise man once told me that without knowledge we can't have understanding. Hopefully my blog will give you, not only knowledge but, a chance to help bring understanding to people around you.
I would like to thank you for going to my blog and I hope that I get you thinking and keep you wanting to come back blog after blog.
Your truly honoured autism educator,