Autistic Girl Uses Computer to Become Autism Advocate

Carly Fleischmann is severely autistic, and is unable to speak. But two years ago, she made a communication breakthrough on her computer -- and now, she's eager to tell the world what it's like to be autistic.

Thirteen-year-old Carly Fleischmann of Toronto, Canada is severely autistic. She is unable to speak or make eye contact. She flaps her arms, makes odd humming sounds, and sometimes hits herself. For much of her life, no one in her family was able to tell what she thought or felt, or how much she knew about the outside world. They weren’t even sure if she could understand their words. Her autism had enveloped her so completely that they didn’t know if there was anything beneath it.

But two years ago, Carly made a remarkable breakthrough: Using a specialized computer, she learned how to communicate through typing.

“All of a sudden these words started to pour out of her, and it was an exciting moment because we didn’t realize she had all these words,” Carly’s speech pathologist, Barbara Nash, told ABC News.

As it turns out, Carly had plenty to say. She understood a lot more than people gave her credit for, and was eager to set them straight on what really went on inside her head.

“It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me,” she typed. “People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can’t talk or I act differently than them. I think people get scared with things that look or seem different than them.”

Carly’s parents were astounded to discover that their daughter had so much insight about her situation.

“We realized inside was an articulate, intelligent, emotive person that we had never met,” Carly’s father, Arthur Fleischmann, told ABC. “This was unbelievable because it opened up a whole new way of looking at her.”

Even though Carly is still unable to vocalize her thoughts, she can share her perspective with the world via her computer – and she is eager to fill curious people in on what it’s like to live with autism, helping them to see that there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Recently, she answered several questions for viewers of ABC who had been moved by her story. In response to a question about how it felt to be in the spotlight, she wrote: “I am so happy. I got a big gift from people around the world. Among so many kids with autism they chose me to be an advocate for autism. Where should I get behind a cause like this? I am so glad that I am able to help people understand autism.”

Watch a video about Carly here.