There have been many fiction books released that feature an autistic protagonist - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend and just recently Love Anthony. I've read all three and really enjoyed them. Each author has brought their own 'version' of Autism and Autism spectrum to the written page.
But Arthur Fleischmann and his daughter Carly Fleischmann bring more than an imagined protagonist to the written page. Carly's Voice is an absolutely riveting memoir recounted by a father and his autistic daughter.
Arthur and his wife Tammy are overjoyed when they give birth to twin daughters. With son Matthew their family is complete. Taryn meets her milestones and thrives.....but, Carly doesn't. Carly is non verbal and severely autistic. What follows is an exhaustive tale of appointments, diagnoses, therapies, frustrations, and more. (Mom Tammy is fighting cancer as well.) I just could not even begin to fathom what the Fleishmanns went through. Arthur and Tammy are tireless advocates; determined to do whatever they can to help their daughter.
"Carly has autism. Three short words must suffice to explain a tome of weird behaviours and limitations. It's a shorthand for Carly-is-different-she-acts-in-odd-ways-she-loves-taking-off-her-clothes-especially-if-what-she-is-wearing-has-a-spot-of-water-on-it-she-likes repetitive-motion-like-that-of-a-swing-she doesn't speak. We didn't know what Carly knew and what she was incapable of knowing. She made odd movements and sounds and covered her ears when it was noisy. She cried often. And she never, ever stopped moving. Never."
And, in one of those 'what if we hadn't' moments....Carly types...Help Teeth Hurt. Although Carly was able to point to pictures for what she wanted, no one had any idea that she was able to communicate in this fashion. And at last Carly has a voice - she is finally able to 'speak'. But Carly's story doesn't end there - her fight to control her body, her desire to live like any other teenage girl, her family's dedication to helping Carly be the best she can be is an ongoing, uphill battle. And you won't believe the places it's take her....so far.
"What keeps us moving forward? Sometimes its just inertia. But we keep sight of Carly's dream to be accepted. She wants to live life fully, accomplish great things, and not be pitied. She just wants to be understood. What else can we do? We get up in the morning when the alarm goes off. And never accept 'no' or maybe."
I really couldn't put the book down. I was so humbled and inspired by Carly. As I type this up using all of my fingers, I am struck by the image of Carly labouriously typing one letter at a time with one finger while trying to control her body's spasms.
Carly is an inspiration to all, but especially to those who are living with, coping with or touched by autism. For those who haven't got a clue - it's an eye opener. Highly recommended. You can find Carly on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Read an excerpt of Carly's Voice: Breaking Through Autism.
"I am an autistic girl but autism doesn't define who I am or how I'm going to live my life." Carly.