The anarchy of lives dictated by autism, for both the autistic person and the immediate family, rawly detailed by one such parent.
The first pages of this memoir/biography might have you convinced that Fleischmann has little more than a threnody to offer regarding life with his daughter Carly, who has severe autism and oral apraxia: “She made odd movements and sounds and covered her ears when it was noisy. She cried often. And she never, ever stopped moving. Never.” Through a series of never-ending downbeats (“Always the incessant rocking. The rocking became the manifestation of everything I hated about Carly’s condition”), coupled with his wife’s diagnosis of lymphoma (“I was beginning to feel like Haiti. Or Sri Lanka. A place where natural disasters just start coming and don’t have the good sense to stop”), readers can’t help but sympathize with the author and his family. Fleischmann displays brutal, disarming honesty, though toward the beginning of the book some readers may wonder when enough is enough. But then something happens, and it becomes clear that the author has been quietly setting the stage all along: introducing Carly’s teachers, explaining the applied behavioral analysis technique they use with her, touching on every step forward and all the steps back. One day Carly started to communicate through her computer—haltingly but intelligibly—and her parents learned that she was not as oblivious as they thought when they were speaking rather frankly in front of her. To read along as she expresses her feelings in conversations with her father is almost as stunning as when she writes of life inside her autistic head: “It’s like being in a room with the stereo on full blast. It feels like my legs are on fire and over a million ants are climbing up my arms.” Is it any wonder she still has behavioral outbursts?
Both heart-wrenching and deeply inspiring. Imagine communicating with your daughter for the first time—at 10 years old: “I could be more than a caregiver: I could actually be her father.”