In a recent video that’s sure to change your perception of autism, Carly Fleischmann, a not-so-typical autistic teenager tell us what it’s like inside her head, explaining why other autistic children act the way they do- bizarre behaviors that continue to puzzle autism experts, like head banging, swaying, and refusal to make eye contact with other people. Only instead of using verbal communication, of which she is incapable, Carly has learned how to communicate using iPad apps for autism.
Branded “autistic” from birth
Born autistic, Carly started showing the first signs of autism as an infant; developmental delays like her inability to start crawling, sitting upright, walking, or talking at the same age as her twin sister Taryn told her parents that something was amiss. Experts said that she was mentally retarded, and close friends recommended sending Carly to an institution, but her parents refused.
“I could never do it,” admitted her father. “How can you give up your kid?”
Instead, they introduced Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), a popular therapy for autism, which also helped her with her severe verbal apraxia. With ABA, autistic children learn small tasks, one at a time, at their own rate of learning, using positive reinforcement. From the age of four, Carly started receiving 40-60 hours of one-to-one ABA per week.
“I am autistic, but that’s not who I am. Take time to know me, before you judge me.”
Still, Carly suffered severe autism, and progress was slow; she would rock back-and-forth incessantly for hours, lash out, break furniture, have sudden angry outbursts, and didn’t seem to comprehend anything that was going on around her, or understand what family members would say in front of her.
But looks can be deceiving…
“You know, I can hear you.”
At the age of 11, Carly was working with a therapist, and she was not happy about it. She was in one of her “off moods,” and didn’t feel like sitting still to learn her vocabulary. Sitting in front of a touch-screen device, she communicated her first word- “No.”
That one word opened up the floodgates for her; she started typing more words like “hurt” and “help.”
“People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can’t talk.”
Over the course of months, and after much coaxing from therapists, Carly learned how to type every time she wanted to say something. She learned how to say things to her parents that she was never able to express verbally, things like “I love when you read to me, and I love that you believe in me. I love you.”
For the first time, Carly, a teenager with autism, had control over her environment. For the first time, Carly was able to have conversations with her parents.
“I stopped looking her as a disabled person, and started looking at her as a sassy, mischievous teenaged girl,” says her dad. “She sees herself as a normal child locked in a body that does things that she has no control over.”
Carly describes her symptoms of autism
In her writing, Carly conveys a deep understanding of the world around her. Likewise, she struggles to get others to understand what her world is like…
On chronic pain: “You don’t know what it feels like to be me, when you can’t sit still because your legs feel like they are on fire, or it feels like a hundred ants are crawling up your arms…I want something that will put out the fire.”
On head banging: “Because if I don’t, it feels like my body is going to explode. It’s just like when you shake a can of Coke. If I could stop it, I would, but it’s not like turning a switch off. I know what is right and wrong, but it’s like I have a fight with my brain over it.”
On covering her ears, moaning, and rocking: “It’s a way for us to drown out all sensory input that overloads us all at once. We create output to block out input.”
On refusing eye contact: “People say that we have a hard time processing information. It’s not really true, our brains are wired differently. We take in many sounds and conversations at once. I take over a thousand pictures of a person’s face when I look at them. That’s why we have a hard time looking at people.”
On autism experts: “How can you explain something you have not lived or if you don’t know what it’s like to have it? 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.”
Carly becomes a delegate for autistic kids everywhere
Today, Carly communicates with other nonverbal autistic kids on the internet. She Twitters like any other teen, and she has a large fan base on Facebook and her blog, Carly’s Voice.
Carly has been the subject of many television talk shows and news segments, like Larry King Live, 20/20, and Ellen, to whom she donated over $500.00 to the Make it Right Foundation.
“Everyone has an inner voice waiting to come out.”
She has also interviewed celebrities like autism advocate Holly Robinson Peete and Joe Mantegna, who has a daughter with autism. She is also working on her first novel.
Here is her story on YouTube
Why post this story on a vitamin B12 blog?
If it seems strange that a site containing information on vitamin B12 deficiency would also focus in autism, then know this:
- Vitamin B12 is brain food. In a study focusing on 50 autistic children who were given vitamin B12 supplements, nine of the children experienced favorable results related to cognitive skills like language and socialization, in addition to changes in biomarkers for oxidative stress.
- Vitamin B12 is good for the nerves. By supporting the myelin sheathe that insulates your nerve cells, vitamin B12 protects you from severe nerve damage like apraxia and paresthesia
- Vitamin B12 deficiency correlates with autism. Many children with autism also have vitamin B12 deficiency. By supplementing with extra B12, parents of autistic children note dramatic neurological health benefits.
Read more about autism:
Autism, B12 and Your Child
Autism Facts and Misconceptions- 9 Common Myths about Autism
Autism Videos for Kids, Teens and Parents: You Tube’s Top 10
8 Great Tracking Devices for Autistic Kids, GPS+
6 Great Diets for Autistic Children
Special Needs for Special Pets: Animal Therapy Success Stories
Autistic Girl Expresses Unimaginable Intelligence
Unlocking Carly: Using one finger, autistic teen uses iPad, laptop to communicate
Carly Fleischmann — Overcoming Autism
4 Promising Autism Treatments, From Vitamin B12 to Alzheimer’s Drug Namenda
Images, from top:
Pink Sherbet Photography, Horia Varlan
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