Friday, August 7, 2009

The Autistic Breakthrough

When you see someone with autism who is unable to speak; seems disconnected from the world; and engages in repetitive behavior, it's easy to believe that the "lights aren't on" inside their heads. I don't know a whole lot about autism and I admit that I'm very guilty of buying into those stereotypes myself. That's why Carly Fleischmann's story is so important and groundbreaking.

Carly Fleischmann is a severely autistic 14-year-old who can't speak and was thus deemed "mentally deficient" until she was taught, through intensive training, to use a computer. She now types out her inner most feelings while breaking down the stereotypes of autism that have been the norm for years. When asked in a recent interview, "what was one of the hardest things you've ever had to do?" She replied:
I think I would have to say controlling my behaviors
It might not seem like I am at times
but I try very hard to act appropriately
It is so tough to do and people think it is easy because they don’t know what
is going on in my body
They only know how easy it is for them
Even doctors have told me that I am being silly but they don’t get it
If I could stop it I would
But it is not like turning a switch off it does not work that way
I know what is right and wrong but its like I have a fight with my brain over

I've always stressed to people who throw out random opinions about things they have never experienced, to try and put themselves in another person's shoes or, at least, try to educate yourself about a certain subject before making a judgement. And, yet, here I am being schooled and humbled by a 14-year-old with autism. As Carly says, "I think people get a lot of their information from so-called experts but if a horse is sick, you don’t ask a fish what’s wrong with the horse. You go right to the horse’s mouth." A fool in a child's shadow, I stand corrected.

Carly's amazing story will be aired tonight on ABC's 20/20 at 10pm EST/9pm CST.

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