Monday, April 9, 2012

The Golden Hat


This boy had a golden hat.
The hat was magical. It could talk.
The boy did not have any voice. He had autism.
His hat was always with him.
His hat was lost one day.
Now he had no way of telling them his stories.
His mom and dad became sad.
They taught him spelling on a letterboard.
It was hard.

by Keli Thorsteinsson

Simon & Schuster contacted me awhile back, told me a little about a new book, THE GOLDEN HAT,  and asked if I would be willing to take a look. I was honored to do so, especially after knowing my friend Arthur, and the story of his daughter Carly finding her voice that autism had kept locked away for years.

It all started when Kate Winslet met a mother and son, Margret and Keli, while doing the voice-over work for their movie, A Mother's Courage. Keli has nonverbal autism, and Kate was so moved by their story, she and Margret stayed in touch. One night after her kids were asleep, Kate went to brush her teeth and a great idea popped in her head: she would ask celebrities to don her hat, take a picture of themselves wearing it, and "Think about the fact that many individuals with nonverbal autism have never been able to communicate. Now express something that's important to you; this quote will be included in the book."

A huge and impressive list of celebrities put on the hat, took the self-portrait, and (most of them) included a quote. Many did express something important to them. Reese Witherspoon, already a favorite of mine, wrote, "Love one another..." Kate herself wrote, "I'm here and I love you." Jude Law wrote, "What a wonderful world." Brigitte Lacombe said, "Be kind."

Some wrote bizarre things and I'll be honest, it lowered my respect for them. I appreciate that they are helping a good cause (more on that in a minute), but it boggles my mind that they don't have more important things to say than, "Get off my property," (Woody Allen), or "Knock, knock... who's there?" (Ethan Hawke). I guess I find it insulting, as though they aren't taking it seriously enough, making it all about them - getting the laugh, the attention, the glory.

This is serious business. My favorite part of the book is the section featuring people with nonverbal autism (including Carly), and the first words they communicated (and the age at which they did so), through augmentative communication devices. Margret's son Keli's first words at age ten, were, "I am real." I needed the celebrities in the book to get that, and many did, but many did not. These are real people, every bit as important, every bit as impressive, every bit as deserving of attention and praise.


One boy was asked by his mother, "What have you been doing all these years?" and the first word he communicated (age nine) was, "Listening." A girl that started communicating at age eight said first, "I don't like flattery."

These people are here to teach.

The Golden Hat Foundation raises money to create housing for adults affected by autism, a cause near and dear to my heart. Do yourself a favor, buy this lovely coffee table-style book for yourself, your loved ones, and maybe one for Woody Allen.

2 comments: said...

What, the guy who slept with his wife's barely legal daughter didn't have enough sensitivity to "get" the assignment? Shocking!

I could have done without a few of the celebs too, but most were wonderful, and Kate is a goddess. As is Carly.

terry said...

Wow. I think I found the book about Carly on the day you wrote this. No accidents.