Breaking through autism

April is autism awareness month in the United States. In Canada, we celebrate autism awareness month in October. Autism awareness month is a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community.

There are many books, both fiction and non-fiction, that deal with the topic of autism and living with autism. But if you haven’t yet heard of Toronto teenager Carly Fleischmann, I can guarantee you won’t forget about her after reading this.

Carly’s story first captured public attention on a 2009 “Medical Mysteries” segment for ABC’s 20/20. She has continued to be featured on national television since then, largely due to her own efforts in lobbying the likes of Larry King, Barbara Walters, and Holly Robinson Peete, who have each corresponded with her and/or featured her on their shows. Ellen DeGeneres has developed a warm relationship with Carly (at Carly’s request, Ellen read Carly’s Bat Mizvah speech for her via video).

At the age of two, Carly Fleischmann was diagnosed with autism, developmental delay, and apraxia–a motor-planning deficiency that makes speech a monumental challenge. As the years went by, Carly’s parents, older brother, and twin sister lived in close orbit around her destructive outburts and heartbreaking struggles, aided by a team of therapists who toiled to help Carly master even the most basic skills.  Doctors predicted that she would never intellectually develop beyond the abilities of a small child and, although there was some small progress after years of intensive behavioral and communication therapy, Carly remained largely unreachable. Then, at the age of ten, she had a breakthrough.

Working with her devoted therapists Howie and Barb, Carly was in a restless mood and struggling to complete her tasks for that day when she unexpectedly reached over to their laptop and typed in “HELP TEETH HURT,” much to everyone’s astonishment.

At last, Carly had found her voice–and what a voice! Carly’s tentative writing increased in frequency and clarity over many months until, by the time she was 12, her family finally started to catch a glimpse of who she truly was through email and instant messenger conversations. Although Carly (now 17) cannot “speak” in the traditional sense and still struggles with all the symptoms of autism and obsessive compulsive disorder,  she now has regular, witty, and profound conversations on the computer with her family, her therapists, and the many thousands of people who follow her via her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

In Carly’s Voice, her father, Arthur Fleischmann, blends Carly’s own words with his story of getting to know his remarkable daughter. One of the first books to explore firsthand the challenges of living with autism, it brings readers inside a once-secret world and in the company of an inspiring young woman who has found her voice and her mission.

Watch the trailer

Visit Carly’s website. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Browse inside the book.

Carly’s Voice is available in stores March 27th.