Posts Tagged ‘Sri Lanka’

‘Wretches and Jabberers’ documentary playing in 40 cities in April for Autism Awareness Month

April 3, 2011

Wretches and Jabberers: And Stories from the Road is a powerful, moving documentary that follows two men with autism as they travel the world, visiting friends with autism and changing attitudes about disabilities along the way.

The potentially groundbreaking film opens in 40 cities in April to commemorate National Autism Awareness Month.

Many people with autism have extremely limited verbal skills or no speech whatsoever.  It has long been assumed by the general public, and even by many parents, educators, and caretakers that scant speech equals low intelligence.

In Wretches and Jabberers, the movie’s protagonists dispel this myth.  The two men and the four friends they visit show the world that they are in fact exceedingly intelligent, eloquent in their writings, and charmingly funny.  Like Helen Keller before them, the “wretches” in the movie are pioneers, blazing trails for others to follow.  The message of the movie is to show the world that there are others like them who are vastly underestimated and whose potential is untapped.  It is a message of hope.

The film follows Tracy Thresher, 42, and Larry Bissonnette, 52, both from Vermont, as they travel to Sri Lanka, Japan, and Finland to visit friends during their globetrotting tour who, like them, type independently to communicate.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Gerardine Wurzburg directed the feature documentary.

Thresher, Bissonnette, and the friends they visit can all type independently.  But they first learned to communicate using supported typing (click here for an article about that technique).

The soundtrack was written by J. Ralph, with songs performed by a star-studded group of artists including Judy Collins, Ben Harper, Scarlett Johansson, Nic Jones, Norah Jones, Carly Simon, Stephen Stills, and Bob Weir.

Click here to read the rest of my Wretches and Jabberers article on Examiner.com.

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EASE: Educate, Advocate, Support, Empower Foundation helps people with autism in Sri Lanka

October 28, 2010

Chammi (right) plays Connect 4 with teachers and a student at the EASE Foundation in Sri Lanka.

EASE: Educate, Advocate, Support, Empower

My friend Chammi Rajapatirana and his parents moved to Sri Lanka four years ago to start the EASE: Educate, Advocate, Support, Empower (EASE) Foundation devoted to providing facilitated communication (FC) and alternative and augmentative communication training for people with speech impairments. The Rajapatiranas started a small learning center that students with disabilities attend for free. Students are first taught to point to objects with the goal of eventually typing without physical support.

Chammi recently attended the premiere of the documentary Wretches & Jabberers: And Stories from the Road, in Burlington Vermont. The movie, directed by Oscar winner and twice Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Gerardine Wurzburg, who also directed Autism is a World, stars FC users Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher as they travel to visit other people who use supported typing in Finland, Japan, and Sri Lanka, where they visited Chammi.  See the trailer here.

One of the young students at the EASE Foundation.

See a video of Chammi typing independently. For an article about FC on Examiner.com, click here.