Carly Fleischmann just made world history as the first autistic journalist to host a speechless talk show. And her first guest? Magic Mike himself.
Born with autism, oral-motor apraxia, and cognitive delay, Fleischmann spent the early years of her childhood unable to communicate with anyone around her. But after years of speech therapy and her own personal determination, she taught herself how to spell and write out paragraphs using one finger on a talking tablet. In 2012, Fleischmann and her father made international news after publishing her memoir, Carly’s Voice, based on her struggles and experiences with autism. The book is the first of its kind and shatters the oft-misunderstood perceptions society places on autism such as a preconceived notion of low IQs (Carly holds an above 120 IQ), and a lack of an internal dialogue.
In talking about her book, Fleischmann wrote on her website, “After my story was played I kept on getting lots of emails from moms, dads, kids and people from different countries asking me all sorts of questions about autism. I think people get a lot of their information from so-called experts but I think what happens is that experts can’t give an explanation to certain questions. How can you explain something you have not lived or if you don’t know what it’s like to have it? If a horse is sick, you don’t ask a fish what’s wrong with the horse. You go right to the horse’s mouth.”
Earlier this month, Fleischmann debuted a new YouTube series, “Speechless With Carly,” and in the first episode sat down to chat with Channing Tatum. The video was one of the biggest of the week with 2.7 million views, a huge spike due in part to Fleischmann’s unexpected interviewing technique. Typing into her tablet, Fleischmann balances her sassy inquiries about Tatum’s days as a stripper and his wife’s fairy collection with layered questions about his fears of not being taken seriously in Hollywood.
Through her YouTube series, Fleischman is taking control of her own narrative and expanding the public’s idea of what autistic individuals are capable of.
In the United States, one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism and Fleischmann is a rare instance of representation, authentically, in the media. For the general public, Fleischmann is providing a touchstone to a developmental disorder that may not have previously impacted their lives.
Fleischmann follows in the footsteps of digital media creators such as blind vlogger Tommy Edison, one-armed fashion guru Grace Mandeville, comedian Zach Anner, and more who are using YouTube to enable others with disabilities. But her most important message? Fleischmann proves that being speechless doesn’t mean you have to stay silent.