Raising a child like Carly in a house with two other children wasn't easy. Both parents were trying to make a living and keep the house going. Many nights Carly only slept four hours and, unable to control herself, still displayed disruptive behaviors. The family felt lost. Friends had suggested that they place Carly in a group home or institution, an idea her parents rejected.
"A 7-year-old in a group home, it's horrifying. The thought of that is horrifying, giving up your child. I could never do it. Never do it. How can you give up your kid? No, no. You just keep persevering, you know," an emotional father explained.
Most frustrating was Carly's inability to speak. Her therapists desperately needed to find some way for Carly to communicate her thoughts. Thousands of hours over months and years passed, and Carly's progress was excruciatingly slow.
Therapists introduced picture symbols that would allow her to communicate her needs. For example, if Carly wanted chips, she would point to the picture of chips.
But then one day, three years ago, when Carly was 11, she was working with two of her therapists when she started to feel sick. Unable to communicate what she needed, she ran to a computer and began to type for the first time.
First she typed the word "H-U-R-T" and then "H-E-L-P" and then she threw up. Her therapists were shocked: They had never specifically taught her those words, and they wondered where she had learned them.
Carly's typing showed them that there was a lot more going on inside her head than they had thought. For the first time she was able to communicate independently. After nine years of intensive therapy, and not much to show for it, Carly was finally emerging out of her silent, secret world.
When first told of Carly's breakthrough, the family didn't believe it. They had every right to be skeptical. Carly refused to repeat the exercise for her parents and her other therapists.
Because nobody apart from two people had ever seen it, the skeptics were desperate to see proof. Going forward, the plan was to use tough love to get Carly to type. If she wanted something, she had to type for it. And it worked. Several months later, Carly started to type, and what came through her finger, typing one letter at a time, with fluency that no one could believe, was simply remarkable.
Carly: "I am autistic but that is not who I am. Take time to know me, before you judge me. I am cute, funny and like to have fun."
Through her torrent of words, Carly began to unravel some of the mysteries behind her often wild behavior, like banging her head.
Carly: "Because if I don't it feels like my body is going to explode. It's just like when you shake a can of coke. If I could stop it I would but it is not like turning a switch off, it does not work that way. I know what is right and wrong but it's like I have a fight with my brain over it."
Carly started to realize that by communicating she had power over her environment, and she wasn't shy about expressing her desires and frustrations.
Carly: "I want to be able to go to school with normal kids but not have them getting upset or scarred if I hit a table or scream. I want to be able to read a book by myself without having to tell myself to sit still. I want something that will put out the fire."