Carly’s Voice – Arthur Fleischmann and Carly Fleischmann
Mostly written by Carly’s father, Arthur, about Carly’s life up to release date (2012); but with additions throughout and a chapter written by Carly. Carly is non-verbal and uses a laptop (and various apps now that they are available) to communicate.
The beginning of the book is predominantly Arthur’s writing, as Carly grows up alongside her twin and it soon becomes obvious that she isn’t developing the same way as her sister. She is diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder and shows global developmental delays. Something I found interesting was that Arthur does not attempt to water down his thoughts and feelings and frustrations concerning Carly’s behaviour – I think many people would try to paint themselves in a more patient manner for a book release, and this honesty is refreshing.
Carly goes through ABA, and as far as the books goes, seems to have no problems with her ABA therapy. As I said before, ABA is controversial, and with so many autistic people who went through ABA adamantly opposed to it, it’s interesting to view it from the point-of-view of an autistic person who isn’t opposed to it.
I mentioned in another review about an author putting forward the idea that autistic children are violent, and I was a bit surprised to see the notion reappear in this book:
But she was not aggressive – never hit or bit others, shrieked, or grew violent. Carly was not like most kids with autism. Even in her oddness, Carly was odd.
and there is a bit of, what I would term other parent bashing? This seems to be a frequent addition in biographies written by parents, I wonder if it’s a coping mechanism of sorts:
We met other families in the autism community. Many seemed to embrace their child’s disorder as if their uniqueness was as benign as left-handedness or freckles. “I think they’re in denial”, Tammy once said.
Handing our child to other to care for – was that not a final act of desperation.
Of course, the main bulk of the book starts when Carly is 11 and begins to type independently, and this is when we get to see an insight into Carly’s life and thoughts. She is an intelligent woman – but more than this, because her words are included in the book, we are not given someone else’s opinion on her. We are allowed to form our own. Throughout the books different parts of Carly’s personality come out: the sense of humour, the deep philosopher, the arrogance, the manipulativeness, her affectionate nature, and her use of guilt-tripping. Some of those words may sound harsh, but it is because Carly is a person with strengths and flaws like everyone else.
The reader is allowed a view into Carly’s world, and gains an understanding of what life is like for Carly. She answers questions on autism and provides answers. Of course, Carly cannot speak for every autistic person but it’s a valuable insight and one that should be carefully considered and filed away for future reference. As she continues to learn to type independently the book moves through Carly’s appearance on Ellen and her correspondence with Larry King, and looks at her battle to be allowed into mainstream classes. The final chapter is written by Carly herself, where her scathing sense of humour comes through, as well as providing more insight into how she feels and what she thinks of everything that has happened in her life so far, including what it feels like to have her body do things that she doesn’t want it to do.
People just look at me and assume that I am dumb because I can’t talk or because I act different than them. I think people get scared with things that look or seem different than them.
I wish I could convince all the people I work with to read this book, if only to show more people that you cannot write anyone off, autistic or otherwise, based on preconceived notions of capability. Definitely worth a read.