Carly Fleischmann has autism and cannot speak. She communicates with her family and the wider world using computers and tablets -- a skill she began to develop when she was 10, and for years, has been an advocate for autism awareness.
One of the 18-year-old's most creative communications, a 2012 short film called "Carly's Cafe," presents a typical coffee shop outing as the teenager herself would experience it: She can't express what she wants out loud -- be it a cup of coffee or the chance to spend her evening doing something without her sister -- and as the video progresses, spectators get a sense (briefly) of a world where basic interactions are beyond their control.
The film was released along with a complementary website that received a Silver Lion in the Cyber Lions category of the Cannes Lions Awards last week. It is based on an excerpt from the book the 18-year-old and her dad, Arthur Fleischmann, co-wrote. "Carly's Cafe" gained attention after its release and was shown at the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. It closes with Carly's message: "Everyone has an inner voice. I found a way to let mine out."
Arthur -- whose ad agency created the video -- told Fast Company last year that his daughter thought the ultimate product was a "good" but not "perfect" reflection of her daily experience. And in a video interview for Simon & Schuster, Carly's father explains what it has been like to raise her, how she communicates through technology and why he wanted to turn their story into a book:
Carly was diagnosed at age 2 with severe autism and cognitive delay and oral motor apraxia, which is a neurological disorder preventing speech. We can't speak to her because we don't know what she understands, and she can't speak to us because she's unable to speak. ... Technology has really been the key to unlocking Carly's voice.
The Toronto Star reports that Carly is headed to the University of Toronto later this year -- a prospect that excites the teenager very much. "So guess the cat is out of the bag!" Carly wrote on her Facebook page in response to the Star's piece. "I CARLY FLEISCHMANN someone who is nonverbal has been accepted to university for the fall. I would love to see the look on my kindergarten teachers face. She thought I didnt like her because I didn't look at her. The moral of this story is that we are all capable."
WATCH an interview with Carly's father here: