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This struck me

February 20, 2008

I just read a series of communications written by Carly Fleishmann, a 13-year-old girl with autism. Carly showed signs of autism at a young age and to this day is unable to speak. However, two years ago, Carly taught herself how to write using a computer. All of a sudden, her family was able to communicate with her and as her writing skills got better, they were shocked at how articulate and emotional she was.

I couldn’t imagine having a condition where you were thinking and feeling like a normal person, but because of your inability to communicate, everyone around you considered you cognitively impaired. To me, that would be a very special kind of hell. However, spending so much time in her head has given Carly some poignant insights. The below quote struck me the most. It is from a discussion she had with a reporter for Globe and Mail.


To tell you the truth I don’t know

I am a girl with autism that learned how to spell and is now able to tell people what I think Its not like I built a thousand houses in new Orleans or found a way for people who don’t have food get food I think the only thing I can say is don’t give up your inner voice will find its way out Mine did

The reason that this jumped out to me is because of the fact that I’ve always considered it very patronizing when people see a handicapped person and call them a “hero” or “so brave and strong” just for living out their lives. How would you like to be told that you must be superhuman just for your desire to go on living? I think that would piss me off. Carly’s realistic attitude shows not only a clear view of her life, but also hints at the desire to do greater things in the future now that she has found her voice.

Carly’s pragmatic answer to that question also shows a depth of thought that may throw some new views into a disease that still not well understood.

Update: I’m not sure I said the above well, so I remembered and searched for a particular comic in a strip called Something Positive by Randall Milholland. The character in this strip is the main characters sister, who was crippled in an automobile accident, and explains my thought better than I did. Read the comic and, if you have thick skin, check out the archive. You’ve been warned.

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