Watch the video below to see Carly Fleischmann, a girl who could once not communicate, type her thoughts and emotions, and surprise the world with her ability to share her voice. Carly is an inspiration to non-verbal autistic people and to those who thought that people labeled as non-verbal autistic would always be silent.
I am currently starting to read the book “Carly’s Voice” by Arthur Fleischmann and Carly Flesichmann. Carly, a teenager diagnosed with non-verbal autism, reveals her inner voice to the world by typing her thoughts on a keyboard.
In earlier posts, I have recommended this book since I have heard such great reviews. I personally respect Carly and have been inspired by her story. I am excited to actually read through her book and to share my thoughts over the next couple of weeks of what I learn.
Carly is the reason why I want to eventually study the language development of non-verbal autistic children. I believe that every child has an inner voice waiting to be unlocked by those willing to be both patient and hopeful. I think we should have high expectations for every child and not lose hope in a person’s ability to communicate. Although communication will look different for all people, we must find a way to decode the messages a child is sending. I question if we should simply overlook hand flapping or stimming as “random”—but view these body movements of a possible way of communication. Gestures, as well as facial expressions, body movement and posture, eye contact, and touch are all types of nonverbal communication. In students who are autistic, I would like society to take notice of the various gestures autistic students make.
Non-verbal body language makes up the majority of a human’s actual communication. In recent studies, I have been surprised to see why more research has not been done studying the body movements of autistic children more closely. Can we possibly find a correlation between the number of hand flaps per minute or the length of a child’s stimming to the way the mind of an autistic child’s brain works?
As I hope must of us believe, the brain of an autistic child is not silent. There is thought, there is feeling, and there is a voice inside that person waiting to be revealed to the world. Our job is to help those children to use their “voice” in a way we both understand.
My hope for 2013 and the years after is for society to look for ways to make more voices be heard. I would love to hear other testimonies such as Carly’s story and find a way to help many children trapped in their own bodies.
“I did not want to play alone, I played alone because I was a failure at playing with others.” -John Elder Robison
Another touching, yet scary realization John Elder Robison shares in his book, Look Me in the Eye.
“As a functional Aspergian adult, one thing troubles me deeply about those kids who end up behind the second door. Many descriptions of autism and Asperger’s describe people like me as “not wanting contact with others” or “preferring to play alone.” I can not speak for other kids, but I’d like to be very clear about my own feelings: I did not ever want to be alone. And all those child psychologists who said “John prefers to play by himself” were dead wrong. I played by myself because I was a failure at playing with others. I was alone as a result of my own limitations, and being alone was one of the bitterest disappointments of my young life. The sting of those early failures followed me long into adulthood, even after I learned about Asperger’s.”
Passage taken from: Robison, John Elder. Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. New York: Crown, 2007. Pg 211.
I do not know about you but this passage hit me hard. As a teacher, I wonder how I am supposed to encourage the play of all students when some students on the outside seem unwilling to play with others. Students tend to avoid activities that are hard so it should not come to a shock when a student with Asperger’s removes themselves from a group of people to feel “safe” or more “secure”.
Throughout my years of interacting with students, I have learned that every child wants to be accepted and loved for who they are as individuals. While some people are definitely more extraverted than others, no one wants to live life fully alone. We must be sure to include students the best we can and create opportunities of play for students who struggle. Without the child knowing, teachers can be consciousness of who they pair a student with Asperger’s with and create environments that encourage structured playing time. Structured playing time may help the child with Asperger’s to play with more ease and not feel the bitter disappointment of playing alone.
Students with Asperger’s can also be taught and instructed in what is considered appropriate behavior. Students without Asperger’s must also be taught how one should treat and include all human beings. With this said, teachers can have classroom discussions that include all students about appropriate behavior during play, recess, or lunch to help create an inclusive and safe environment for all students to interact and feel included.
I believe the teacher or the parent plays a huge role in setting the standard of how students in her classroom or home treat one another. Students can be taught basic principles of respect, understanding, and manners. This simple classroom discussion can lead to happy people and happy students, and prevent more passages as the one read above about John Elder Robison.
As stated in a previous post, I highly recommend the book: “Look Me in the Eye” by John Elder Robinson to gain a better understanding on people with Aspergers.