Bridging the Gap Between Autism and Communication [Video]

Autism may cause children to have a difficulty communicating with others. However, two different outlets might make communicating easier for children who are diagnosed with autism. One of the outlets that are bridging the gap between autism and communication is typing. This action can be seen through a book written by Arthur Fleischmann, Carly Fleischmann’s father. Carly was diagnosed with autism at age 2 and is non-verbal, meaning she does not speak. However, she has learned how to communicate through typing. It started when she was eleven and her friend suggested she try tweeting using Twitter. The tweet she typed was mature, insightful and funny.

Carly typed two words at age 10 that opened her world up to her family. She typed Help Teeth Hurt on the computer to let her family know about a problem she was having at the time. Professionals deemed her as mentally retarded so everyone was surprised that she could communicate in that way. Also, no one around her knew she could read or write. Aside from communicating to her family how she felt, she also told them something else. She typed that she was autistic but that was not who she is. Carly also typed that people should know her before they judge her. She did not stop at typing, Carly also uses Facebook and Twitter. Her father helped Carly tell the world what life is like living with autism in a book titled Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism.

Her father and his advertisement company, John St, created a video that shows people what a typical day might be like for Carly. The video, titled Carly’s Cafe, was filmed in one day on a $175,000 budget. Carly’s Cafe shows a family: a father, sister and a person with autism at a coffee shop ordering drinks. People can get a glimpse into autism through the video by learning how normal sights and sounds can affect a person with this disability. Arthur Fleischmann said that through embedded areas, viewers are able to move their mouse around the video to experience the visual and auditory distractions that most people ignore but which becomes a never-ending problem for people such as Carly. Fleischmann also says that when these distractions are combined with the inability to speak it makes it even more frustrating. A second outlet that is bridging the gap between autism and communication is animated movies.

Owen Suskind began showing signs of autism at age three and was later diagnosed with regressive autism. Regressive autism is a type of autism where children who were developing normally before age 1 or 2 lose social or language skills they previously learned. Owen watched Disney movies even before he was diagnosed with autism. His parents, Ron and Cornelia Suskind, said the Disney characters whose lines and songs he could easily repeat, showed his parents the door to his feelings and thoughts. Suskind said that through these characters, his son was able to come back into the real world. They were told by Owen’s pediatrician that what their son was doing was called mimicry. However, both Suskind and his wife were sure it was not mimicry because Suskind said the emotions, movements and tones were authentic, like he was doing method acting.

When Owen was six years old, Suskind took a puppet of Iago, the parrot in Aladdin, and began a conversation with his son. He asked Owen how he is doing and his son responded with saying that he was not happy. Owen continues by saying that he does not have any friends and that he cannot understand what people say. Suskind says that the characters who were sidekicks in the movies touched Owen on an emotional level and allowed him to reveal himself. Suskind said it allowed him to communicate with his son on a more delicate level. Suskind has written a book titled Life Animated, which is about Owen and the way Suskind communicated with his son through what he calls Disney-therapy.

Two people who were diagnosed with Autism at a very young age are now able to communicate through technology. Carly learned to use the power of typing to show the world and her family what she has to say. Owen is using Disney movies to also talk to his family about his thoughts and feelings. While the two people were bridging the gap between autism and communication when they were young, these people are thriving today. Carly is attending Victoria College at the University of Toronto and is enrolled in their Bachelor of Arts program. Tammy Starr, Carly’s mother, said she would like to be a journalist. Owen is now 23 and goes to a special school in Cape Cod. He is both the founder as well as the president of the Disney Club, where members watch Disney movies and sing along to the songs in them. Despite Carly and Owen’s challenges, they were able to overcome great odds by using very unique methods to communicate.

By Jordan Bonte


Autism Daily Newscast
The Toronto Star
ABC News
The New York Times

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