"Wretches and Jabberers": Communication and Autism

Friday, April 01, 2011

Filmmaker Geraldine Wurzberg, and Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonette, two men with autism, discuss the film “Wretches and Jabberers.” The film follows Thresher and Bissonnette, who use keyboards and computers to communicate instead of speaking, who set out on a global quest to change attitudes about disability and intelligence. They travel to Sri Lanka, Japan, and Finland, in order to challenge public attitudes about autism. It’s playing at the AMC theater on 42nd street.


Larry Bissonette, Tracy Thresher and Geraldine Wurzberg

Comments [10]

rh from NYC area

In response to Alan, my 15-year-old nephew is considered "high-functioning" but can only put together a few words and has a lot of trouble answering anyone other than his parents.

Yet he can read and spell very well; not grade level, but about fifth grade. He is very smart but has trouble concentrating, and we don't know if he can ever hold down a job.

Stories like this make me think there is some hope that he could use facilitated communication by himself. My brother and his wife refuse to let him try, they think that he will lose his speech if he likes using a computer voice more.

I think they are depriving him of the chance. I don't know, but maybe others are depriving their children of the same chance because they think the same thing.

Aug. 15 2011 07:35 PM
Dorzie from New York

I; myself have two autistic nephews and one autistic niece (all siblings) and find this FASINATING! The oldest nephew; 26 years of age now used to use a voice communicator keyboard but unfortunately was so repetitive typing the same sentences over and over. Although the younger two can verbally express themselves, it's not enough! Bravo to Leonard Lopate for bringing this to light. Autism is a DISEASE just like any other and should not be treated any different. No other children/young adults have the love in their innocent hearts as do my nephews & niece. God Bless Tracy & Larry!

Apr. 01 2011 07:45 PM
Alan from Brooklyn from Brooklyn

As the parent of a 26 year old young man with autism, I get very disturbed by films like this. As you said, every autistic is different, and shows such as this make the public think all you have to do is hand an autistic a keyboard and he's cured. My son has a paying job, has some speech, and uses a computer every day to search the web. However, he is NOT using it to communicate and is not capable of doing that. Nothing against these autistic men, but who taught them to read? To type? To spell? My son was in special ed all his school years, and is not capable of what these "institutionalized" men can do. While a small group may benefit from facilitated communication, as I think these men have, most will not. I suspect some people may be misdiagnosed as autistic.

Apr. 01 2011 02:29 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Excellent segment, Leonard. Please ask your guests to come back soon.

Apr. 01 2011 01:28 PM
celine from nyc

bravo leonard...
this interview was as seamless as any other with conventional speaking. I think the interview itself spoke to the representation desired of your guests.

Apr. 01 2011 01:22 PM
Linda from NJ from Brielle, NJ

fantastic project! I want to see the film.

Apr. 01 2011 01:16 PM
nermin from Queens

As a mother of a 7yd no verbal child who is just learning to use a machine to talks for her, thank You.

Apr. 01 2011 01:16 PM

Yes, this is fascinating!

Apr. 01 2011 01:15 PM
Leah from Brooklyn

What a brave and fascinating segment, Leonard. Thank you for bringing these voices out of the margins.

Apr. 01 2011 01:10 PM
Tony from Canarsie

“Wretches and Jabberers”? Ugh, not another segment about Fox News!

Apr. 01 2011 11:52 AM

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