I recently had the honor of attending a luncheon at the Ladies’ Home Journal offices to learn more about Kate Winslet’s Golden Hat Foundation, established to help those with the most severe forms of non-verbal autism. Here’s the backstory. A few years ago, the Oscar-winning actress and mom of two narrated A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism, a documentary about a young Icelandic boy named Keli Thorsteinsson and his mother Margret. Kate was touched by Margret’s relentlesss efforts to find a way for her nonverbal son to communicate. The two mothers became close personal friends (I loved hearing stories from Margret at the luncheon about their late night talks, emails, and even how Kate flew out to Texas to cook Thanksgiving dinner for Margret’s family….it was inspiring to hear about a “celebrity” who is, quite personally, making a big difference). To do more to help, Winslet decided to start the Golden Hat Foundation, whose name comes from a poem that Keli wrote using a letterboard, entitled “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.
You can read much more about Kate, Margret, and Keli in this month’s issue of the beautifully-redesigned Ladies’ Home Journal).
The Golden Hat Foundation has several goals. First, it wants to educate people so that they understand that people with nonverbal autism are intelligent but have few means to communicate. They need the technology and opportunities to do so. Second, young adults with nonverbal autism need places to live when they move out of their family’s homes. The Golden Hat Foundation hopes to start several residential communities that provide active, engaging, supportive environments for these individuals.
The Foundation’s first major fundraising project is Winslet’s new book, The Golden Hat, which will be in bookstores on April 3rd. I got an advance copy and it is a fantastic volume in which Kate has amassed a collection of photos from friends (including renowned personalities) donning a special “Golden” hat and taking their self-portraits. Each person also gives a special written message to those with autism. It is a compelling read. You can pre-order it here.
I am so grateful that I got to learn about the Golden Hat Foundation and its important work. I am a mom of two kids with special needs and even I did not understand how little is being done to help people with severe non-verbal autism. This is one of the most underserved and stigmatized populations within the autism community and I encourage you all to learn more about what you can do to help. Visit the Golden Hat Foundation’s website or Facebook page and spread the word!