For the first time, Carly was able to have conversations with her parents, even instant-messaging her father at his office. Her family stopped looking at her as a disabled person and instead met the funny, sassy, intelligent girl that had been trapped inside. They also said they were "horrified" that for most of her life they spoke in front of her as if she wasn't there.
Carly: "I want people to know that no one is telling me what to say and I don't have a hand up my butt like a puppet."
For all her progress communicating, Carly still needs constant supervision. A family member or aide is always at her side, directing her through simple daily tasks like brushing her teeth, fixing her hair, even eating. Nothing is easy. But like most teens, Carly likes music, boys, clothing and of course going to the mall.
Carly has been very clear that she sees herself as a normal child locked in a body that she has little to no control over. So in public, everything has to be broken down and planned to control her impulses. In the past she has wandered off, even stolen goods.
Side by side with her twin sister, Taryn, it would be easy to dismiss Carly as intellectually challenged. That is, until you ask her a question. For instance, Why do autistic kids cover their ears, flap their hands, hum and rock?
Carly: "It's a way for us to drown out all sensory input that over loads us all at once. We create output to block out input."
Carly's brain, unlike most of ours, is overwhelmed by the senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. She calls it audio filtering.
Carly: "Our brains are wired differently. We take in many sounds and conversations at once. I take over a thousand pictures of a person's face when I look at them. That's why we have a hard time looking at people. I have learnt how to filter through some of the mess."
To help keep Carly calm -- and keep her impulses in check -- she listens to music, swims and even does yoga, which has helped with her breathing and posture.
Carly's family and therapists emphasize that no one is physically directing her to type, as some skeptics, they claim, have suggested.
"This isn't some spontaneous event," Carly's mother, Tammy, insists. "This is entirely Carly. No one is touching Carly's fingers, no one is moving anything, no one is prompting her or telepathically insinuating what she should type."
Dr. Nicole Walton-Allen, an early skeptic, concedes: "In retrospect, it is quite clear that Carly obviously had skills that we were not aware of and she needed a vehicle to express herself."
One of the things that makes Carly so unique is her tremendous sense of humor. For instance, this exchange with her therapist:
Barb: "How cute are you?"
Carly: "I'm so cute blind people stop and stare."
Her brother Matthew is also a favorite target.
Carly: "Matthew smells so bad skunks run and hide."
Besides her obvious spunk and tenacity, Carly is empathetic and recognizes the love and sacrifice her family has made for her, something she conveyed to her father on his birthday.
Carly: "Dear Dad, I love when you read to me. And I love that you believe in me. I know I am not the easiest kid in the world. However you are always there for me holding my hand and picking me up. I love you."