Photo source: Autism Speaks
Many with autism struggle with communication, and being nonverbal can be difficult; however, one woman is overcoming stigmas and all sorts of adversity by hosting her own talk show.
Autism and oral-motor apraxia
Her name is Carly Fleischmann, and she is only 22 years old, but she is not letting her youth - or anything else - get in her way.
Communication is so important, which Carly especially understands because she knows what it's like not to be able to. At the age of only 2, she received an autism and oral-motor apraxia diagnosis. The combination renders her unable to speak.
She references that when she was young, she couldn't understand being nonverbal, until one day at lunch. She explains the experience: "My brother placed his order and then my sister did hers. I remember putting my order in too; however, when the food came out my sister and brother got what they wanted and the plate in front of me was not what I had asked for in my head. At that moment in time, I realized I did not have a voice. I could not tell people that I wasn't feeling well or why I was hitting my head with my hand to stop myself from doing something I knew was wrong."
However, that doesn't mean she can't communicate. At the age of 10, she began typing to talk to friends and family. It began with simple messages of only a word, which seemed small, but they offered her more communication than she had access to previously. But this process was not easy for her, as she struggles with poor fine-motor skills, meaning it could take a significant amount of time to type even the simplest of messages. This evolved over time and now she is able to use it to convey thoughts just as anyone else would speak. She can tell others about her day, voice her opinions, and describe her feelings. She even manages to get her humor across - and people find her hilarious!
She explained how she views herself and her influence: "My voice is loud and powerful. I can share knowledge and compassion with families who have started to go through struggles with their child on the spectrum.”
She is certainly correct that she has a powerful voice, as she is the first nonverbal celebrity talk show host, which is an inspiration for thousands of others who deal with similar hindrances to traditional communication. She illuminates that nothing can get in your way if you put your mind to something. She advocates for others with autism, trying to help them find the power within themselves as she has.
How Ellen DeGeneres helped her
Ever since she was young, she wanted to be able to properly tell her mother that she loved her, just like every other child could; however, she knew she would need help. So she turned to The Ellen DeGeneres Show for assistance.
She explained: "Every time I tried to explain to my mother that I loved her, she kept on cutting me off or tried to guess what I was going to type on my computer. One day while we were in L.A., I asked a friend of mine, Ellen DeGeneres, to tell my mom that I loved her ... It took Ellen DeGeneres being my voice in order to get out three simple words that so many people can say in less than 30 seconds."
Ellen certainly inspired her to want to be a talk show host, as did Oprah, and she got a pretty great person to interview to start off - Channing Tatum. He was her first guest on Speechless with Carly Fleischmann, her talk show.
The talk show is the first of its kind, and Carly is particularly skilled in devising questions that enable her celebrity guests to offer answers that many viewers might have been previously unaware of.
Her ability to make celebrities feel so comfortable stems from her own familiarity with discomfort, as she often feels overwhelmed by experiences or places that might seem routine for others, like sitting in a coffee shop. This specific scenario was depicted in her video "Carly's Café: Experience Autism Through Carly's Eyes," which shows how people with autism spectrum disorder are bombarded by scents, noises, and sights that may not even be noticed by those who are neurotypical.
However, one place that Carly isn't uncomfortable is on camera. She explains, "it's funny, being in front of a camera or an audience is what makes me feel the most comfortable and relaxed. It's hard to be on all the time, meaning it's hard to control my body or control the elements that are trying to come into my head all at once."
Even though she has difficulties, Fleischmann manages to educate others on what it is like to have autism and certain mannerisms that present themselves via social media and her website.
Fleischmann wants to use her platform to make people understand how different everyone is. She explains, "I think the biggest misconception is that if you meet one person with autism you've met them all, when in fact, when you meet one person with autism, you've met one person with autism. We are more than just the label, and if we are going by labels, I have OCD, scoliosis, selective mutism and Oral Motor Apraxia."
Now, she has interviewed even more celebrities like Whitney Cummings and James Van Der Beek, and even wrote a song for Kaitlin Kozell.
However, even though she is breaking boundaries and interviewing some of her idols, she finds the awareness she has raised to be her most important accomplishment. This is especially useful for parents of those with autism, and she is very open to answering their questions on her website and social media. By sharing her experiences, she hopes that more people will understand and potentially treat people in their lives with autism better.
Night of Too Many Stars
Many were inspired by Fleischmann's journey, and when they heard about her work, Night of Too Many Stars were sure that they wanted to telecast it.
Night of Too Many Stars is a fundraiser for autism programs led by Jon Stewart and partnered with NEXT that is usually packed full of celebrities.
Goals for the future
While her potential is entirely open, her goals include having her own show aired on television, create her own sitcom that she has a pilot script for, and make a reality show unlike any other - one that follows those with autism to allow others to learn about what their lives are like.
She explains, "if I could give parents [who have a child with autism] one piece of advice, it would be that your child is in there. They need you to help them reach their potential, and they can achieve more than you think they can. Your mission is to help your child become the best they can be... just like every other parent. Whatever stage your child is at, you're there to help your child find their voice an learn how to use their voice, in order to better their lives."
She is changing everyone's perspective on autism, one interview at a time.