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Carly Fleischmann Helps Canada Understand Autism

Carly Fleischmann, a Toronto teenager with autism, has been in the news lately after learning to communicate with the aid of a computer which helps her spell out words.

Now, a 13-year-old girl from Toronto is offering a rare glimpse into the secret world of autism and has become a symbol of hope for parents and families coping with an autistic child. Carly Fleischmann is unable to speak a single syllable. But two years ago, she defied the odds and started typing words with the help of specialized computer software.

Her inner voice speaks volumes. "I am an autistic girl who has learned to spell and can tell people to stop looking at me like I am helpless. I am cute, funny and I like to have fun," Carly writes.

Her father, Arthur Fleischmann, says that the family was stunned. "We realized inside was this intelligent articulate emotive person we had never met. It was just unbelievable because it opened up a whole new way of looking at her."

In another computer-generated communication, Carly provides unique insight into what it's like to live with the disorder: "It feels like my legs are on fire and a million ants are crawling up my arms."

Carly's family insists she isn't a miracle case. They credit her intelligence, and years of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy, for her progress. ABA is an intensive, one-on-one treatment where therapists teach children through positive reinforcement and repetition.


In Carly's case, the therapy includes a team of 12 part-time therapists working in shifts, and amounts to about 40 hours a week. Her family strongly believes the program is partly what enabled her to share her story through the written word.

CTV News, The Words Within

In telling her story, Carly has been able to give Canadians a vivid picture of what severe autism can be like.

Her father, Arthur, says: "Even professionals labelled her as moderately to severely cognitively impaired. In the old days, you would say mentally retarded."


Three years ago, in therapy, Carly learned to type on a computer that uses pictures and symbols. A few words came out, and then she went on to whole sentences. She began describing what it was like to have autism and to explain why she did things like obsessive rocking, or hitting herself: "It feels like my legs are on fire and a million ants are crawling up my arms," Carly typed.

Being autistic, Carly says, is like "being in a room with the stereo on full blast." She added: "It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me. People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can't talk, or I act differently than them."

Her dad told reporters: "We realized that inside was an articulate, intelligent, emotive person that we had never met.

Calgary Herald

The tragedy in Carly's story comes from the fact that many Canadian families struggling with Autism are unable to afford the kind of intensive therapy Carly received.

But Carly is one of a fortunate few because her parents have funded all of her therapy—which amounts to about 80 thousand dollars a year. For countless other parents across the country, it's simply not a feasible reality.

The vast majority of autistic children in Canada have little to no access to intensive therapy of any sort. Each province offers varying levels of treatment, and in most cases, families are put on long wait lists.

The Words Within

Recently, Carly has been inspired by the story of Stefan Marinoiu, the father of an autistic son, who has been walking from Toronto to Ottawa to draw attention to the need for a "national solution" that enables all families to afford intensive autism therapy. Here's part of a recent conversation Carly had with her father and therapists:

Did you see the dad who walked to Ottawa
I want to walk to Ottawa
Because i don't want to be the girl known for spelling i want to help children like me
The priminister brain harper
But i can't take the train
I need to walk
It called making a statement
A thirteen yearold girl walks to Ottawa would make people want to meet with me
Not a thirteen year old who takes the train
I feel sorry for the boy who did not get people like you to work with him
I think i can help

CTV News, Carly Fleischmann responds

ACT posts news reports and other sources on this website for the information of our readers only. ACT neither endorses nor condemns this material. We urge readers to consider this information with a critical eye and to form their own opinions about its validity or applicability to their situation.

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