Monday, April 11, 2011

Wretches & Jabberers

I watched a movie tonight called "Wretches & Jabberers (see this link for the website). It's a documentary that was released last year that I've never heard of, and I'm sure that the vast majority of you haven't heard of it either. It's an amazing documentary about two adults with severe autism who have learned to communicate through typing. One of the men, Larry, is an artist. The other man, Tracy, is an autism advocate. He wants to get the message out that people with severe autism are intelligent people who have problems with communication, but have normal thought processes.

In the film, Larry and Tracy travel to Sri Lanka, Japan, and Finland to attend forums to spread their message. In each of the three places they travel to, they meet other people like them. Needless to say, they make a huge impact in the conferences, not only with the people trying to learn more about autism but with their counterparts in the other countries. In particular, they meet Naoki in Japan. Naoki is a 16 year old boy with severe autism. While he is a budding artist and has published 10 books already, the Japanese education system will not allow him to attend school, so his mother home schools him. Tracy teaches him about advocacy, an idea he has never heard of before. When they meet in person and exchange ideas, it really fires Naoki up in a way he hasn't been before.

In Finland, Larry and Tracy meet two young adults who live in a group home, Henna and Ankki. Henna was the first person to master communication through typing in Finland. She spends her days doing pretty menial office work. Ankki is a clearly brilliant young man who is entirely misunderstood by the people trying to help him. They don't seem to be aware that this man, who is a talented writer, is capable of reading and make him use pictures to communicate. When Henna and Ankki meet Larry and Tracy, it is a truly eye-opening and life-changing experience for them.

While the movie's tone is overall upbeat, it does not sugar-coat the situation that Larry, Tracy, and their new friends are in. It shows their anger and frustration with autism. I didn't get the impression that Larry or Tracy, while both living very busy lives, were actually bringing in much money. Also, it shows that neither man is capable of living independently. Again, they are two men with severe autism.

This movie was totally successful at showing the perspective of people with severe autism. I don't think this perspective has been shown like this before. It's a really important film to see. Now for the bad news: it's a very difficult film to see. Some AMC theaters around the country are having some viewings in April for Autism Awareness Month. Please click on the link above to see if there's a viewing near you. There are some other viewings listed thereafter, but they're pretty limited. I'm hoping this film will get a decent distribution through video and become more available in the future. I cannot stress what an important film this is to see.

I was not solicited to write a review for this film and was not provided a copy of it for these purposes. I'm writing this post because I was truly moved by this movie and know a lot of other people will be moved by it as well.

Do what you can to see it!


  1. This movie is showing in a couple of weeks near me. I'm going to try to go. It looks phenomenal.

  2. At my synagogue a young women with severe autism as well as other issues had her Bat Mitzvah using a typing devise which produced a voice. She was able to "chant" Torah and lead some of the service. There wasn't a dry eye in the sanctuary. The young woman is now 22 years old and lives in a Jewish group home (open to all religious faiths). She was able to stay in Fairfax County Schools until her 21st birthday. Everyone who knows her, knows she is a lot more intelligent than she "tests". With some of this technology available, I hope it can help people with autism and other developmental issues.

  3. Looks awesome! Reading their writing on the website was amazing. Hopefully this will make it to cable.
    I was so inspired by Tom Murray's Family Biography/Documentary "Dad's in Heaven with Nixon".

    Just seeing adults living quality lives makes my heart soar.

  4. wow.. it looks like my kind of i just saw something on the news about this dr who is suggesting low cholesterol in kids might be a catalyst to autism... what are your thought opinions on that?(you know when i hear stuff i come to you first ;)....hugs!!!!!

  5. I just heard about this. Can't wait to see it. I'm so moved by anoyinmom's story too. Love the idea that my kid has trouble communicating but is otherwise "in there." I think that's true.

  6. This does sound like a very important film. I would love to see it. Thanks for writing about it.

  7. I heard about this too. Sounds interesting, I'm going to see it for sure. Thanks.

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  8. I've been meaning to see it. I will now.

  9. It's showing in the Chicago area, but at a theater far away and for only like one showing. I'm guessing that it will be on video and cable soon...can't wait to see it.