There is a simple reason why the beauty store Sephora can get away with charging $60 for a 4-ounce jar of moisturizer called Hope in a Jar: It appeals to one of our most basic emotional needs as human beings, the need for hope. This is never more true than within the autism community, especially among the parents of affected children. Hope is dangerous. Hope will have you juicing parsley and flying your children to Honduras to see the one doctor in the world who has the cure to the yet unnamed genetic disorder that looks just like autism but isn’t. We are afraid to have hope, but even more afraid of letting go of it.
After a few years’ worth of disappointments, we give up on Hope in a Jar. We turn to Apathy in a Can.™ It’s cheaper, more practical, and we don’t risk having our dreams crashed in when it turns false. It takes a while to wash the false hope out of your system, but once you do then you can be so much more receptive to the real thing.
Reading Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism by Arthur and Carly Fleischmann is a bit like Hope in a Jar; the title alone suggests a promise of something wonderful inside if you just take that leap of faith, but unlike all those false promises we’ve bought into in the past, this feels like the genuine article; Real Authentic Hope, and something we can all truly believe in.
The story is that of Carly Fleischmann, a young girl severely affected by autism, and told predominantly from the viewpoint of her father. He begins by taking the reader through what he describes as “climbing the well-greased ladder” of receiving an autism diagnosis and diving head first into the sea of treatment options.
Parents will immediately relate to Arthur and Tammy Fleischmann, because their story is our story in so many ways. He grabs us in the prologue by describing a frantic search for a missing seven-year-old Carly, only to find her at a park a few blocks from their house, happily stimming with no clothes on and being stared at by a neighbor. For people who don’t live with autism, this sort of story seems outrageous. For those of us that do, this is practically commonplace, and we immediately accept him as one of “our people” who “gets it”. Mothers and fathers will find themselves nodding in agreement at the gritty, heartbreaking accuracy of the details of a typical day raising a profoundly autistic child.
There are many long hard years of intensive therapy for Carly with very little to show for it outwardly. Her inner terrain is an unknown mystery for the better part of her childhood. Not only do we read her father’s accounts, but we also get to peer into her medical files and see what the professionals’ impressions were. By every account, this was a girl deeply locked inside of her autism.
But then, hope begins to bloom when an eleven-year-old Carly amazes everyone and types a now-famous message (“HELP TEETH HURT”) to her therapists. Those initial three words (and the gazillion that followed afterward) were the confirmation of what so many parents always believed (and in our darkest moments might have doubted) but could never prove; that these children have an inner voice and they’re highly aware of their surroundings.
After this, Carly begins to take over the telling of her own story. She answers some of the questions people have posed to her over the years, providing us with a Rosetta Stone into the mind of a young person with autism and sharing her insights with those of us on the outside who so desperately try to understand. When Carly is asked if she thinks what she can do is a miracle, she says no, it just took a lot of time and hard work. With every word Carly writes, she reminds us that she is an intelligent, beautiful, and wickedly funny young lady with an awful lot to say, and she’s not an anomaly – all of our children are in there, just looking for a way to tell us about it. They’re not selling us a cure, they’re showing us how much we already have. Now that’s hopeful.
The timing of this story’s release couldn’t be more perfect; never before have the two historically divided camps of parents of autistic children and autistic adult advocates needed to find a way to peacefully co-exist than now, and this book seamlessly blends those two viewpoints into one cohesive story.
We highly recommend this one. It will help you to have a better understanding of what’s going on inside your kids’ minds, it will help you appreciate the world that will open to your own children soon, and it will really make you crave chips, so you should probably pick up a bag when you buy the book.
We have one copy of Carly’s Voice to give away. If you would like to qualify, just leave a comment here. A winner will be chosen randomly on May 24, at noon, Pacific Time.
Read an excerpt: http://www.scribd.com/doc/81879038/Carly-s-Voice-Breaking-Through-Autism-by-Arthur-Fleischmann-with-Carly-Fleischmann
Watch the book trailer: http://youtu.be/N1WVzG8HHlc
Visit Carly’s Website: http://carlysvoice.com/
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