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    Cal Lutheran to screen film on autism


    search arial, pills sans-serif; font-size: 12pt;”>California Lutheran University will present a free screening of a documentary on the efforts of two men with autism to change attitudes about disability and intelligence.

    “Wretches & Jabberers” will begin at 6:30 p.m. March 17 in Preus-Brandt Forum on the Thousand Oaks campus. A discussion with Oscar-winning director Gerardine Wurzburg and the men featured in the film, Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette, will follow.

    In the 2011 documentary, 42-year-old Thresher and 52-year-old Bissonnette embark on a global quest to let people know that they and others like them don’t need to live lives of social isolation.

    Growing up, the Vermont residents were excluded from general education schooling. Bissonnette spent 10 years of his childhood in a mental institution. Thresher was placed in segregated classrooms isolated from his peers. With limited speech, they faced lonely lives in mental institutions or adult disability centers. But when they learned to communicate by typing as adults, their lives change dramatically. After more than 10 years of advocating for people with autism, they decided to take their message to other countries.

    In the documentary, Thresher and Bissonnette travel to Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland. At each stop on their trip, they dissect pubic attitudes about autism and challenge people to reconsider competency and the future. They have moving and transformative encounters with young men and women with autism and others. Along the way, they explore local sights and culture. They dodge Sri Lankan traffic in motorized tuk-tuks, discuss the purpose of life with a Buddhist monk and relax in a traditional Finnish sauna. They reunite with old friends from the United States, expand the world of a talented young painter and make new allies in their cause. From the beginning to end, Thresher and Bissonnette inspire people with a poignant narrative of personal struggle that rings with intelligence, humor, hope and courage.

    Thresher and Bissonnette will be the keynote speakers at a Cal Lutheran conference on autism, inclusion and communication on March 19.

    Cal Lutheran’s Graduate School of Education Center for Innovative Learning is sponsoring the free screening.

    Registration is required. Register online at Preus-Brandt Forum is located at 135 Chapel Lane. For more information, contact Edlyn Peña at 805-493-3021 or [email protected], or Jacquelyn Greenhill at 805-493-3492 or [email protected].

    Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette (left to right)  PHOTO CREDIT: Ralph Alswang Photographer 202-487-5025



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