Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism

Arthur Fleischmann with Carly Fleischmann, authors

A Touchtone Book, Published by Simon & Schuster, Biography, Mar. 27, 2012

Suitable for:  Parents of Autistic Children, Young Adults, Educators

Themes:  Parenting an Autistic Child, Nonverbal, Breakthroughs, Courage, Hope

Opening:  “A news reporter once asked me to describe our a-ha moment with Carly.  He wanted to understand that blinding flash of insight we had about our daughter.  I thought for a moment before replying.  There never has been a moment like that.  Carly has always just been Carly.”

Carly and her fraternal twin sister, Taryn, were born in 1995.  From the beginning they were very different babies.  As early as 10 months, Arthur and his wife, Tammy, noticed Carly was showing signs of delays in her gross motor skills, language, auditory attention and socialization.  By age two, she was diagnosed with severe autism and an oral motor condition called apraxia which prevented Carly from speaking.  Doctors predicted  minimal intellectual development.  Her parents refused to give up in their attempts to reach Carly.  Their lives were filled with therapists who worked with her at home and at school.  In fact their entire family life, which included Taryn and an older brother, Matthew, revolved around caring for Carly.

Arthur Fleischmann, bares his soul as he writes a very raw and honest book about life with Carly.  The sleepless nights, explosive outbursts, chaos, exhaustion, not to mention the huge financial debt they incurred paying for special ABA treatment with two therapists, a nanny, and special equipment.  They were constant advocates, fighting teachers, principals and school boards to make sure Carly received important ABA treatment and attended special schools.  Her ABA therapists saw Carly’s intelligence and worked diligently with Carly using many methods to draw her out.

Hope arrived at age 10, when Carly reached over to the computer and with her index finger typed three words “Help Teeth Hurt.”   Carly was very smart, and this was the beginning of unlocking the door so Carly could find her voice.  It didn’t happen over night.  In fact it took many turbulent years filled with meltdowns, tearing off clothing at night, head banging, and long periods of silence when she’d refuse to type her feeling or interact with her therapists and family.  A significant breakthrough occurred when Carly finally typed to her therapist “Tell Mom and Dad to stop yelling at me.”  “At night when I yell and jump around.  It’s not fun for me.  My legs and arms tingle and I can’t make them stop.  I have to move or it gets worse.  I am hitting myself to stop this feeling.”  She was finally communicating what was going on inside of her and doctors could treat her symptoms that were painful with medication and help reduce meltdowns.  Carly began to calm down and over time and she began to share more of her world in Carly’s voice.   Her therapists and family discovered a very intelligent, gifted, funny and witty young woman who wanted to do normal activities like her brother and sister.  She wanted to go shopping with her mom and to take long walks with her dad.

Epilogue:  There is a special 20-page Epilogue at the end of the book that is written by Carly, who is now 17 years old.   It is funny, insightful and inspiring.   You learn why she calls her voice, her “inner voice.”  You discover that she was talking all the time as a young child, but inside of her head.   One day, she realized that no one was hearing her.  She talks about information and sensory  overload.  She describes her moment of realization that she was different from Taryn and Matthew.  She began to realize on her own that “it wasn’t that I didn’t understand the words, it was that my brain couldn’t focus directly on the conversation.”  This happened when Carly was bombarded with too many noises, bright lights, and smells, which would distract her and put her on sensory overload.   Left to her own resources, Carly taught herself what she calls “audio filtering,” which helped her sort things out.  It is a very hard thing to learn, but Carly did it on her own.  This is just a peek at what this inspiring young woman has done for herself, autistic children, parents and the medical and educational communities. Carly has found her voice and has become advocate helping people understand autism!   You can follow Carly Fleischmann on Facebook (over 32,100 followers)  and Twitter.

I Just Don’t Like the Sound of NO!

I Just Don’t Like the Sound of No! (How about MAYBE?)

Julia Cook, Author

Kelsey De Weerd, Illustrator

Boys Town Press, 2011, Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages 5 and up

Themes: Frustration, Obedience, Conflict Resolution, Interpersonal Communication, Life Skills

Opening/Synopsis “My name is RJ, and I just don’t like the sound of the word NO!  It seems like everybody always tells me NONO RJ this, NO RJ that…sometimes I think my real names is NO RJ!”   RJ goes shopping with his dad and sees a box of smelly markers he really wants.  He asks his dad if he will buy the markers for him.  His father says, “No.”  But RJ protests with “how about maybe or we’ll see?”  When RJ gets home his best friend Sam invites him to sleep over at his house.  RJ’s mother says “No, not on a school night.”  RJ argues with ” how about I’ll think about it?”  The same pattern continues at school and his teacher tells RJ that he needs to learn to accept “No” for an answer.  She invites hims to become a member of the “Say YES to NO Club.”  If RJ can learn to accept No for an answer from his parents and teacher, stay calm and learn how to disagree appropriately, he can add his name to the club’s Star Board.

What I like about this book:  Julia Cook is one of my very favorite children’s authors.  This book is the winner of the 2011 MOM’s Choice Award Honoring Excellence, and the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval. Her books are all winners for me because they help children problem-solve, learn fundamental social skills of accepting “no” and disagreeing appropriately, or learning proper behavior for a range of situations.  Her books are such a treat for kids, parents and teachers!   Kids will laugh as they see and hear themselves in her stories.   There are so many teaching moments.

Activities:  The book itself, is an activity book with tips for parents and educators at the end.  But, there is also an Activity Guide for Teachers with a CD and posters than can be purchased separately.   Visit Julia Cook’s website for information and other resources.   I have previously reviewed three other Julia Cook books on my blog.  If you are interested in reading my reviews click on “My Mouth is a Volcano”  “The Worst Day of My Life EVER!”  and “A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue.”  I’ve included pictures of the covers below.   All of her books come with separate Activity Guides.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

 

Important Date: April is National Autism Awareness Month, which will be kicked off  Monday, April 2, with an International Autism Awareness Day.  Join  Autism Speaks in the third annual “Light It Up Blue” day to help shine a light on autism.  The entire world is going blue to increase awareness about autism.  My website will feature an article on Monday, and will be blue!

Tattling and Squealing at School and at Home

With the beginning of each new school year, teachers across the country deal with tattling.  I found the following books informative, resourceful and just plain fun for kids.  Tattling is normal in young kids.  Pre-school and elementary teachers might want to consider starting off the year reading these books to the classrooms to help their students understand the difference between tattling and telling when something is really important.  Parents also face similar problems with siblings.

A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue, is written by Julia Cook and illustrated by Anita DuFalla for pre-schoolers to third graders.   It is published by the National Center for Youth Issues.  The author must have had my daughter in mind when she wrote this book.  I would have loved to have had this colorful and creative book to use with her.   Cook gets her point across with a wonderful teaching moment that is really quite humorous and guaranteed to make a child stop and think.  Kids alike will be entertained by this book, yet understand its strong message.

Josh tattles so much at school that he has been nicknamed “Josh the Tattler.”  He is so busy worrying about what everyone else is doing that he alienates himself from his classmates.  At school the kids ignore him at lunch time and during recess .   His mother is fed up with his tattling and tells him that if he doesn’t stop tattling, he’s going to get “Tattle Tongue.”   A bad case will cause his tongue turn yellow with purple spots and it will start to itch.   Each time he tattles his tongue will grow longer.  She comes up with a catchy phrase that helps him stop and think at school before he starts to tattle.  But, Josh has a dream about his tongue growing and meets that Tattle Prince who explains to him the difference between tattling and telling, and shares four basic rules.   Josh has some choices to make.

Don’t Squeal Unless It’s a Big Deal, is written by Jeanie Franz Ransom and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic for pre-schoolers to third graders.  A great message for children accompanied with colorful, expressive pictures emphasizing how exhausting tattling can be for all involved.   There are 19 students in Mrs. McNeal’s class.  And 19 tattletales.  Teacher McNeal does a wonderful job of asking the tattlers if they’ve talked with the accused student, have they been hurt, or have they tried to fix the problem first before coming to her?  She comes up with a new rule that she prints on the blackboard: ” Don’t squeal unless it’s a big deal.”    The piglets learn when it is the proper time to tell a teacher.   Then one afternoon that rule is tested when something BIG happens.  The children are left to their own resources and have to use everything they’ve learned to take care of the problem.  The author is a school counselor and does an outstanding job of showing and not preaching to the students.    She has included a guide for teachers and parents at the end.  Kids will enjoy this book!

Wendi’s Magical Voice — Stuttering Awareness Week

Wendi’s Magical Voice, is written and illustrated by Brit Kohls.  It is available to all kids who stutter through the Stuttering Foundation of America.

This imaginative and  fun story is about a good little witch who stutters and does everything within her magical powers to disappear at school so that she won’t have to speak.  Wendi experiences fear, embarrassment,  anger, frustration and shame when she’s asked to introduce herself at school.    While the other children are practicing their tricks for the Magic Fair, Wendi hides under her desk, hoping to be  invisible.  It isn’t until she meets Peter the  Troll, who befriends her  and invites her to be his partner for the Magic Fair, that Wendi  finally finds a creative way to move beyond her fear.

Children will delight in this magical book, as Kohls has portrayed each child as a different storybook character, thus emphasizing the fact we are all unique in our own special way.

May 9-15 has been designated as National Stuttering Awareness Week, with Colin Firth as honorary chairman.   The Stuttering Foundation of America is the largest nonprofit charitable organization in the world working toward prevention and improved treatment of stuttering.  They reach over 1  million people annually.  According to Jane Fraser, president, “Since the King’s Speech was released last December, the movie has brought a lot of attention to the world of stutterers.”  The foundation also provides a wealth of educational  information on stuttering, referrals to therapists nationwide, myths about stuttering, a page where kids and teens can share their stories and a book, Trouble at Recess, that can be downloaded to  your computer.

Some interesting facts from the foundation:  More than 68 million people worldwide stutter;  3 million Americans stutter.  Stuttering affects four times as many males as females.   Approximately 5 percent of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more.  That is why early intervention is so important.  Three-quarters of those will recover by late childhood, leaving 1 percent with long-term problems.

Famous people who stuttered include King George VI, Winston Churchill, Nicole Kidman, James Earl Jones, Marilyn Monroe, Tiger Woods, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Jane Seymour.