How Mentorship From Autistic Adults Is Making An Impact On Young Kids Growing Up With Autism

This is the second part of an interview series we did with Lauri Hunt, founder of Ollibean, and mother of thirteen year-old Henry Frost of I Stand With Henry. It’s been an amazing experience to be friends with Lauri as she’s watched her son’s self-advocacy emerge. When we first met her, it was because Henry was one of our first Squaggers. Soon after that, Henry met Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher from the must-see documentary Wretches and Jabberers. We interviewed Lauri about what it was like for her, as Henry’s mom, to witness the moment that Henry’s mentors changed his life forever:

Can you tell us about your son’s experience with Larry Bissonnette & Tracy Thresher?
Where to begin? Life changing. Larry and Tracy are two of the most incredible people on the planet –  compassionate, intelligent and wickedly funny. One important component of what we’re doing at Ollibean is organizing community events, or just having a central place for people to post what’s going on. Ollibean Art for Change sponsored two community events – screenings of the documentary by Gerardine Wurzburg, Wretches & Jabberers and Q&A with the stars, Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher at the Tampa Museum of Art and Tampa Theatre. We picked up the Vermonters from the airport and brought them to our house for dinner. Tracy and Henry (our son) made an instant connection – instant. Tracy types to Henry,
“Let’s talk about world intelligence.”
Henry looked at him, with this intensity that was beyond his age, and they sat down at our dining room table and typed for about three hours. My mom, my sister, my husband our girls and Henry – sitting around the table with, Tracy, Larry, Harvey and Pascal, just this really wonderful atmosphere.

It was one of the most incredible times, not only for Henry, but for our whole family.
Tracy and Larry have really mentored and inspired Henry to be a self-advocate, to help change the way the world sees disability, to self-advocate for inclusion and the right for everyone to have the supports they need for communication. They have also mentored the rest of us to advocate for this change.
Tracy has really been there for Henry, actually everyone involved with the film has. It’s hard when people make assumptions about your capabilities because you communicate differently. It’s so hard on kids’ self-esteem, anyone’s self esteem, and I’m forever grateful to our friends from Wretches & Jabberers letting Henry and people all over the world know they are not alone.
Henry is a different kid when he’s around people that presume he’s competent and accept him exactly as he is. It’s been incredible to watch him become so empowered. Last summer he went from a pretty shy kid to this young man rushing the stage to get up and type with his heroes about changing the world. Pretty amazing stuff.
Yes it is. Thank-you for the incredible work both you and Henry are doing and for continuing to inspire us to be better at ours.

(If you missed the first part of this interview, here it is.)