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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Carly's Voice

I have read many books written by people who have autism.  In fact, I recently wrote a review of Temple Grandin's new book "Different...Not less"- which is a collection of autobiographical essays describing  the challenges and successes in the lives of people on the spectrum.

When I went to Temple Grandin's conference a few weeks ago- she highly recommended the book Carly's Voice. Now its my turn to recommend it! This is an exceptionally well written description of how disability impacts the whole family-told from her father, Arthur Fleischmann's perspective. Carly's emerging voice is shared throughout the story as we read her emails and other writings, but it isn't until the end of the book when she truly shines as the charming young lady with a sense of humor and a sophisticated understanding of social dynamics. In fact, I have to question the autism diagnosis of a person who reads social cues so well.

I vaguely remember hearing about Carly in the news a few years ago when the media latched on to the sensational story of a girl thought to have a severe cognitive impairment. But, one day Carly experienced tooth pain that was bad enough to make her type out a message for help.  The Fleischmann family has never been the same.......

As an occupational therapist, I searched for strategies to help Carly cope with her extreme sensory sensitivities as I read about her stereotypies (i.e.rocking), frenetic movement and sleep struggles. Sensations harmless to the average person intensely impact Carly's nervous system and she struggles to control her related behaviors in order to "fit in". Caring for Carly is more than a full time job. Arthur Fleischmann describes the heartbreaking conflicts that occur when a father loves his daughter, wants the best care possible, yet must place her in residential respite to cope with the stress. 

Diagnostic criteria for autism center around impairment in communication, social and motor skills and a sensory processing disorder often coexists. Once Carly starteds communicating with painfully slow one finger typing-she demonstrated a spunky personality, social savvy and understanding of language that is not expected in a person with autism. This is good news!

Regardless of diagnosis, I thank the Fleischmanns for sharing such personal details of their family's experience and Carly's exciting journey to find her voice. I look forward to following her many accomplishments on Facebook as this amazing young lady inspires, educates and mentors her many friends and fans.


Megan Brown said...

Thanks for a very interesting post. I'm a second-year OT student, and have a lot of respect for Temple Grandin as in my previous career I worked in the veterinary field. It's certainly intriguing to encounter her from an entirely different perspective. The book you've referred to sounds great, and the videos you've posted have definitely piqued my interest. Thank you!

ems_02 said...

Wow the clips on this blog post are amazing and the book sounds like a great one to read. I'm a second year OT student in NZ and have had a very limited experience with working with autistic children. This blog has made me want to learn more and gain more experience working with autistic clients