Everyone has an inner voice. I found a way to let mine out. – Carly Fleischmann
Autism does not manifest exactly the same for those who suffer from it, not all have the same problems and severity varies from mild to “acute”. However, all who suffer from autism have communication problems. They seem to live in their own worlds unable to interact normally with those around them, thus being unable to integrate fully in the society.
Meet Carly Fleischmann:
The video shows Carly acting out because those around her could not understand what she actually wanted. She was not able to just tell them, freely expressing her thoughts. People with the ability of speech or body control at times find it difficult to express themselves clearly enough to be understood. Frustration sets in when we cannot get our message across.
This was one of Carly’s daily struggles, until she discovered that she could communicate with the help of a computer. And that opened the floodgates of her genius. When reading her powerful words, it’s difficult to imagine everyone believed Carly to be mentally retarded. Everyone, but her father. He saw in her, in her eyes an innate intelligence.
With Text-to-speech (TTS), Carly’s words became more powerful and more poignant. It added another dimension to her written words. It lent Carly a voice on what she needed the world to know. To quote the reporter, “What came through her finger, typing one letter at a time, with fluency no one could believe, was astonishing.” She wrote: “I am autistic, but that’s not who I am. Take time to know me, before you judge me.” That’s profound, but it becomes more compelling with TTS.
She got to tell the world what causes her wild behavior and let others know the depth of her frustration. Communicating through the computer is a coming out for her. She broke out of the shackles of her silence and asked for help. As one of her therapists says, “Carly realized that it gives her power over her environment.”
To hear her through TTS explain why people with autism cover their ears, flap their hands, hum and rock is enlightening. You don’t expect words like “drowning all sensory input that overloads us all at once” coming out of a girl who used to go to the bathroom, strip and engage in fecal smearing. Through her, we got to know from firsthand experience how the brains of people with autism are overwhelmed by the senses of sight and sound, taste and smell. She knows that their brains are wired differently. This is not a therapist making an assessment for one who has autism, but the person suffering from autism describing her own experiences and sharing her pain. When her father mentioned Carly’s wish (if she could, to leave her body), it shows that she knows all too well what is going on with her but is at the same time powerless to control it.
Communicating using a computer is not only a breakthrough for Carly, but for those who love her as well. Finally, she was able to tell them that she loves them back. For all the good that TTS can do, this is one of the most beneficial. It gives voice to the voiceless.
Developers are continually improving the technology to include the nuances of different languages. The dream is that one day, more people like Carly and the famous Stephen Hawking (who has ALS and not autism) will have their own voice in society.