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DCEC/CDS Upcoming Events Spring 2012


The Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee (DCEC) theme subcommittee and the Center for Disability Studies (CDS) have put together a slate of events designed to foster an understanding of DCEC’s 2011-12 theme Disability as Diversity.

These events are being co-sponsored by the Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee, the College of Education's Curriculum & Instruction, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, and Learning & Performance Systems departments, the College of Arts and Architecture, Library Services for Persons with Disabilities, Education & Behavioral Sciences Library, Rock Ethics Institute, Smart Start Centre County, and UPAC.

Wretches & Jabberers Film Screening, Q&A Session, and Reception

6:30 P.M.
Palmer Lipcon Auditorium
Palmer Museum, Curtin Road, University Park

We are hosting a screening of the film Wretches and Jabberers along with a discussion with the film’s stars/subjects, Larry Bissonette and Tracy Thresher.  Tracy and Larry will hold a Q&A session and reception with the audience after the film.

Wretches and Jabberers (from

In Wretches & Jabberers, two men with autism embark on a global quest to change attitudes about disability and intelligence. Determined to put a new face on autism, Tracy Thresher, 42, and Larry Bissonnette, 52, travel to Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland. At each stop, they dissect public attitudes about autism and issue a hopeful challenge to reconsider competency and the future.

Growing up, Thresher and Bissonnette were presumed “retarded” and excluded from normal schooling. With limited speech, they both faced lives of social isolation in mental institutions or adult disability centers. When they learned as adults to communicate by typing, their lives changed dramatically. Their world tour message is that the same possibility exists for others like themselves.

Between moving and transformative encounters with young men and women with autism, parents and students, Thresher and Bissonnette take time to explore local sights and culture; dipping and dodging through Sri Lankan traffic in motorized tuk-tuks, discussing the purpose of life with a Buddhist monk and finally relaxing in a traditional Finnish sauna. Along the way, they reunite with old friends, expand the isolated world of a talented young painter and make new allies in their cause.

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.

About the Speakers

Larry Bissonette’s Bio (from

Larry Bissonnette is an advocate and artist who lives in Milton, Vermont and has had his work exhibited regularly both locally and nationally.  Larry is one of the featured artists of the GRACE (Grass Roots Art and Community Effort) project based in Hardwick, Vermont.

His work is in the permanent collection of the Musée de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland and in many private collections.  His work was most recently featured in the Hobart William and Smith Disability and the Arts Festival in April, 2010.  He is both the subject and writer of an award winning film about his life, called, My Classic Life as an Artist: A Portrait of Larry Bissonnette (2005).  In 1991, Larry learned to communicate through typing and began combining words with his art to express his thoughts and ideas.  Over the past 15 years, he has been a featured presenter at many educational conferences and has written and spoken on the topics of autism, communication and art.

Tracy Thresher’s Bio (from

Tracy Thresher is an advocate for people with disabilities.  He lives and works in Vermont.  Tracy began typing to communicate in 1990 and was one of the first individuals with autism at Washington County Mental Health Services (a community-based service provider) to be introduced to it.  He has presented at local, statewide, and national workshops and conferences.  He has consulted with local schools, is a member of the Vermont Statewide Standing Committee and has worked for the Green Mountain Self-Advocates in Montpelier, Vermont.  In Vermont, he mentors teenagers and adults.  Most recently, Tracy has consulted at Syracuse University as a lead trainer.

[1] The term “presumption of competence” refers to the idea that professionals should assume first and foremost that people with disabilities are capable and seek out alternative ways that this can be demonstrated.

Culture, Schooling, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Apr 29, 2014 from 03:00 PM to 04:30 PM Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library, Curtin Road, University Park,
We are hosting a public talk by Dr. Kyunghwa Lee, Associate Professor, Department of Elementary and Social Studies Education, University of Georgia.
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