I recently watched a video on YouTube about an autistic girl named Carly Fleischmann. (http://youtu.be/YEhc1o8oKeI) Diagnosed with severe autism and severe developmental delays, Carly appeared as so many of the autistic people I’ve seen or encountered in my life – flailing arms, humming, batting herself on the head and temper tantrums. Carly’s parents accepted her limitations and set out to give her the highest quality of life possible. When Carly was about 11 years old, her parents and therapists discovered that with the use of a computer, Carly was able to communicate. Communicating is an understatement. Trapped inside was the most eloquent, thoughtful, sensitive and funny person you could ever imagine. She explains what it is like being autistic, why she flails her arms, rocks, hums and most importantly how it feels when people stare at her and call her names.
I’ve worked with people with a variety of physical, mental and emotional disabilities for most of my adult life, so I do my best to be aware of and respectful toward disabled people and treat them with dignity. This video, however, shook me to my core. While I have treated these very same people with human dignity, I’m not sure I have ever really thought that they were aware of everything going on around them. I have been humbled and I thank Carly for that. As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” I promise to do better.