How A Nonverbal Talk Show Host Is Highlighting The Need For More Autistic Stars On TV


One planned bit on Jon Stewart's 2017 Night Of Too Many Stars clued viewers in to some of the issues that people with autism and other disorders face on a daily basis. Carly Fleischmann was going to interview Stephen Colbert during the live fundraiser on Nov. 18. Even though she has oral motor apraxia, which makes her nonverbal, she has interviewed celebrities on her web talk show, "Speechless With Carly Fleischmann," by communicating through a computer. However, the interview with Colbert didn't go as planned when Fleischmann, who also has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), became distracted by the confetti on the stage. She wasn't able to conduct the interview on Night Of Too Many Stars, which benefits the organization NEXT for Autism. But through her talk show and other projects, Fleischmann is illustrating how understanding, patience, and flexibility is required if the world is to be more accommodating for people who aren't neurotypical.

Although she didn't get the chance to complete her interview with Colbert on Night Of Too Many Stars due to her OCD, Fleischmann's talk show host career is just beginning. Colbert said on the broadcast that he wants to finish their interview at another time. And Fleischmann wrote on Facebook that Howie Mandel, who also has OCD and whose skit with Stewart led to the confetti on stage, told her after Night Of Too Many Stars that he'd also like to be interviewed by her.

On Facebook, Fleischmann wrote that she was sad that she "let my OCD get the better of me." But Stewart explained how this moment on Night Of Too Many Stars "shows you something really important, cause she is a brilliant interviewer and a really funny person and people with autism have challenges and obstacles to get through."

Fleischmann told People magazine in an interview before Night Of Too Many Stars, "I think the biggest misconception is that if you meet one person with autism you've met them all, when in fact, when you meet one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." Her words are a great reminder that Fleischmann's condition and personality are specific to her, not representative of a whole group. Yet, she is an example of a person who can't speak, but is very talkative, all the same — something her family didn't know until she communicated through her computer. She is able to articulate her thoughts and express herself with this technology. In this way, she is helping educate the public about people with autism — especially people with autism who are nonverbal like her. And she also gets to pursue her own dreams of hosting a talk show at the same time.

People can hear Fleischmann's own voice, thanks not only to her computer, but because of the fearless way she advocates for herself and for others with autism. And long before she was booking appearances on Night Of Too Many Stars, Fleischmann was doing incredible things.

Since she didn't get the chance to show off all her abilities during the live show, check out what Fleischmann has done throughout her young life.

Her Story Sparked Public Interest A Decade Ago

Nowadays, the 22-year-old Fleischmann interviews celebrities like Channing Tatum, James Van Der Beek, and Whitney Cummings, but she started making headlines when she was a teenager. As shown in YouTube clips on Fleischmann's channel, news outlets like World News With Charles Gibson, 20/20, and Larry King Live have featured her inspiring story. Her family had no idea what was going on in her mind until she typed a message on the computer when she was 10. "We were stunned and then we realized inside was this intelligent, articulate, emotive person that we had never met," her father says in the World News clip above.

She Communicates With Ellen DeGeneres

Fleischmann also gained recognition early on through her friendship with Ellen DeGeneres. She used to write letters about her experience as a nonverbal person with autism and DeGeneres would read them on her show. On her website, Fleischmann wrote that TV is hard to watch because it's overwhelming, but, "I love watching the Ellen show. She makes lots of noises and makes me forget that I’m autistic sometimes." Fleischmann even joked about DeGeneres in the opening of her interview with Colbert during Night Of Too Many Stars when she said, "HBO enticed me to come on this show by promising me a huge celebrity, such as Oprah or Ellen DeGeneres to interview, but all I get is this guy," referring to Colbert.

She Helps Parents Of Children With Autism

Also on her website, Fleischmann uses her FAQ section to help parents of children with autism gain insight into their children, whom they might struggle to communicate with. Even if you don't have a child with autism, Fleischmann's responses will open your eyes to the many misconceptions there are about the disorder.

She Wrote A Book

With her father, Arthur Fleischmann, she cowrote the 2012 book, Carly's Voice: Breaking Through Autism. This is an impressive feat for anyone, let alone a teenager whose autism makes typing very time-consuming.

She Shows What Life Is Like Through Her Eyes

She released a video entitled, "Carly's Café," based on an excerpt from her book that shows how something like going to a coffee shop can be overwhelming for a person with severe autism. It's a tremendously enlightening video for neurotypical people.

She Has Her Own Talk Show

Her father and other advocates have noted that many people might think Fleischmann is not intellectually developed based on her physical behavior, but her interviews on "Speechless With Carly Fleischmann" prove how untrue that is. Fleischmann's intelligence and sense of humor — and, let's be honest, her love of men — are on full display in her interviews with stars like Tatum, Van Der Beek, Beth Behrs, Grace Helbig, and Cummings. Before "Speechless," she also interviewed people like Meredith Vieira and Holly Robinson Peete. We may have a specific idea of what an interview might look like, but Fleischmann's success in her chosen field is a great example of what happens when the world adapts to a person who isn't comfortable with the traditional structure.

Based on how much she has already accomplished in her young life, Fleischmann will continue to overcome those obstacles. And as she keeps sharing her perspective and her voice, Fleischmann gives others with autism the opportunity to shares theirs and encourages society to make a space for those voices.