So many parents of non-speaking autistic kids would do anything to hear their children speak. Some try everything, from ABA to abusive quack cures, hoping for what they would consider a miracle, that their child will start talking. But I often wonder how they would react if their child “found their voice” but that voice wasn’t quite what their parents had in mind.
And just recently, I witnessed how some parents actually did react in that situation. Carly Fleischmann is a non-speaking autistic lady who was dismissed and called “retarded” at a young age. She famously taught herself to type and turns out that she was actually quite gifted. Her parents cashed in on this, writing a book with her, and she became a bit of a celebrity (even hosting her own chat show) . They gushed how they always supported her and knew her brilliance.
However, Carly didn’t always toe the line. She spoke out about how abusive the ABA her parents had subjected her to was. She believed it caused her OCD. Shortly after that, she was subjected to ECT, supposedly to treat her OCD, which not only didn’t work, but also caused her to lose her ability to type for a while. Even though her father claimed the ECT was her choice, not many in the autistic community believe him.
A lot of autistic people excel at spotting patterns. And the pattern we see is this: Carly gains/regains her voice, she speaks up against something her parents are doing, her posts get deleted, family members claim she’s fine and it was all a misunderstanding/her account was hacked/some other excuse. She disappears for a while. Then re-emerges with some new YouTube channel, some new project, having regained her voice again.
This pattern repeated again a few days ago. She wrote a post accusing her father’s boyfriend of sexually assaulting her. Her father commented saying the boyfriend thought he was just hugging her. Her post then got deleted and replaced with one saying her account had been hacked. Once again, the autistic community are not buying it. Carly has once again disappeared.
So, to all those autism parents who desperately wish their non-speaking autistic children would talk. Or type. How will you react when they tell the world you are abusive? When the longed-for “I love you” never gets said, and instead they tell you the exact opposite? Will you shut them down, take away their voice, speak over them like you have always done?