I stumbled upon a story recently that inspired me and renewed my faith in the belief that there are miracles happening all around us. At the age of 2, Carly Fleischman was diagnosed with severe autism and an oral motor condition that prevented her from speaking. When she was diagnosed, doctors told her parents that she would never develop intellectually beyond the abilities of a 6-year-old child. Can you imagine the sadness you would feel knowing that you may never get the chance to know their child’s thoughts, hopes, and dreams? The thought of never getting to hear your baby say their first words or call you “Mommy” would be devastating.
Her parents had no idea if she could spell; understand the meaning of the words, let alone, type. They had spent years being told that they should give up and put Carly in a group home. Friends and family watched as Carly’s parents struggled to connect with their little girl and over and over again, no great success was made. But they could and would not give up on their little girl. They carried on putting everything they had into reaching Carly. They refused to stop fighting for a chance to know their little girl.
One day at the age of 11, life profoundly changed for Carly and her family. Out of nowhere, Carly began to communicate with the outside world by typing words on the computer. After thousands of hours of intensive behavioral and communication therapy, she typed her first word, “MEAN” referring to her therapist’s efforts to redirect her back to therapy. Then she typed, “TEETH HURT.” After years of not knowing if Carly understood anything that was being said to her, it was obvious that she had understood it all.
This was the first step of Carly's journey toward self-realization. Carly still struggles with all the symptoms of autism, which she describes with uncanny accuracy and detail, she now has regular, witty, and profound conversations on the computer with her family, her therapists, and the thousands of people who follow her via her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
In March of this year, Carly, 17, along with her father, Arthur Fleischman, published Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism. The book is a combination of Carly’s firsthand experience with autism in her own words and her dad’s story of finally getting to know his amazing daughter. In a matter of 6 years, Carly has gone from being a child who could not communicate with the outside world to being a young woman who is pioneering the way for the world to truly understand autism. And this because two parents refused to give up on their daughter. They followed their hearts and it paid off in dividends.
Carly never showed any signs of understanding what her parents were saying to her, but they never gave up and one day, she broke through. She's smart, witty, funny -- but no one knew because she couldn't tell them. No one knew what was going on inside her head. But what if she never communicated and they never knew she was in there understanding everything going on around her? She was imprisoned in her body. After all, this is the same child that doctors said was retarded.
As a parent, this has to be one of the most difficult things to ever go through. When our children are babies, they cry and we look for cues but as they get older we expect them to talk to us. What if they couldn't? Do we just make assumptions and give up? I don’t think I could ever give up on my child. Carly’s parents kept believing and working with her and NOW they know their daughter. They know her thoughts, hopes, and dreams and that is pretty incredible.
Image via Pamlau/ Flickr