Wretches and Jabberers Event Comes to Ashland University

3/22/10 ASHLAND, OH -- "Wretches and Jabberers," a film about two men who have autism and are trying to change the world's views and attitudes toward disability and intelligence, is coming to Ashland University this April.

There will be a free screening of the film at Ashland University on April 15 at 6 p.m. followed by a question-and-answer session with the cast.

On Saturday, April 16 at 10 a.m., there will be free workshops led by the two men in the film -- Tracy Thresher, 42, and Larry Bissonnette, 52-and two other groups of presenters. Sean Sokler, a graduate of George Mason University and a man with autism who does not speak, will present a talk on "Finding Work with Autism and a College Degree." Jacob Pratt, the executive director of the Autism Spectrum Differences Institute (ASDI) of New England, and his colleague Dr. Linda Rammler, past-president and member of the Board of Directors of ASDI, will present a talk on "Supporting a Real Life for Adults with Autism." Pratt is also a man with autism who does not speak and has recently become engaged to be married to a woman with autism who does not speak. Dr. Rammler is a consultant to many public schools on autism topics.

"Wretches and Jabberers" will be held in the Ronk Lecture Hall located in the Dwight Schar College of Education on the Ashland University campus. The Saturday presentations will be held in designated classrooms in the Schar College.

"This is a film that opens in AMC Theatres in 44 cities across the United States in recognition of Autism Month. It will open in Columbus on April 12," said Pat Edwards, associate professor of education at Ashland University and organizer of the event. "The film was recently sponsored by AMC Theaters and the Autism Society of America and we are excited to be able to bring the film and cast members to Ashland on April 15."

The film features Thresher and Bissonnette traveling to Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland in an attempt to change the public's views about the issue of autism in hopes of making a difference in the future.

"Both of these men had been isolated for much of their lives either in institutions or adult disability centers," Edwards said. "This all dramatically turned around for them when they learned how to communicate by typing in the early '90s. The message that they present on their world tours is that the same possibility of a regular life exists for others like themselves."

When Thresher watches "Wretches and Jabberers," he says all he can think about is how he wants to thank God for giving him this opportunity to change the world. 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, Edwards said.

Edwards said donations will be accepted at the event to support the Autism Parent Support Groups located in Ashland, Richland, Wayne and Crawford counties.

The event is being held in April, which is autism month in the United States. Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. One in 110 children will have this disability and boys are four times more likely to have it than girls.  As of now, there is no medical detection or cure for autism. The rate for autism is growing 14 percent per year around the world, and more children will be diagnosed with autism than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.

Bissonnette now lives in Milton, Vermont, where he is an advocate and an artist that is featured of GRACE (grass roots art and community effort). His art is displayed in Musée del Art Brut in Switzerland. Not only is Bissonnette an artist, but he is also the subject and writer of his award winning movie "My Classic Life as an Artist: A Portrait of Larry Bissonnette," which was made in 2005. Bissonnette's organization is the Howard Center, which is one of the largest community mental health agencies in Vermont.

Thresher lives and works in Vermont as an advocate for people with disabilities. He has worked for Green Mountain Self Advocates in Montpelier, Vermont, and is a member of Vermont Statewide Standing Committee. He mentors teenagers and adults, but most recently he has consulted at Syracuse University as a lead trainer. Thresher's organization is the Community Developmental Services, which is located in Barre, Vermont. This organization provides full range of life support to adults and children with developmental disabilities.

The soundtrack for "Wretches and Jabberers" was released on Jan. 11, and consists of 20 original songs which were all written and produced by J. Ralph.

Ashland University (www.ashland.edu<http://www.ashland.edu>) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.

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