Two autistic adults with limited speech capabilities but a desire to tour the world to change attitudes about disability and intelligence. That’s the story behind the documentary Wretches and Jabberers, directed by Oscar-winner Gerardine Wurzburg, which chronicles the travels of Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette. Wretches and Jabberers will be shown on Wednesday, December 4 at 4:15pm in the Villard Room of Main Building and will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Thresher and Bissonnette. The event is sponsored by the American Studies Program, Education Department, the Dean of the Faculty, ACCESS student group and the Office of Accessibility and Educational Opportunity and is free and open to the public.
Like many children with autism in the 1960s and 1970s, Thresher and Bissonnette grew up unable to speak and were excluded from normal schooling. They faced a future of social isolation in adult disability centers. In the early 1990s, both men’s lives changed dramatically when they learned to communicate by typing. Bissonnette notes, "Nothing I did...convinced people I had an inner life until I started typing." Their world tour message is that the same possibility exists for others like themselves.
The film follows Thresher and Bissonnette on their travels to Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland. At each stop, they dissect public attitudes about autism and issue a hopeful challenge to reconsider competency and the future. From beginning to end, Thresher and Bissonnette inspire parents and young men and women with autism with a poignant narrative of personal struggle that always rings with intelligence, humor, hope and courage.
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