A new nonprofit, Golden Hat Foundation, was founded by Steiner Ranch mother Margret Ericsdottir and by Kate Winslet, Academy-Award winning actress best known for her role in Titanic.
Ericsdottir, her son Keli Thorsteinsson, a Vandegrift High School 9th grader with nonverbal autism, and Winslet all cowrote a book entitled, “The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism.”
There are 10 young people with autism in the book, including four from Steiner Ranch: Keli, Mike Weinstein, Andrew Rhea, and Mitch Helt.
This book premiered at the United Nations on World Autism Awareness Day in April of this year and has enjoyed much press including: Good Morning America, Live With Kelly, USA Today feature story, Ladies Home Journal front page, Vogue, and more.
There was a book signing event last week at BookPeople at 603 N. Lamar Blvd. Margret, Keli and the other three boys who participated in the book from Austin were there to sign books.
“What is fun about the book is that along with its message about autism, it features 100 A-List celebrities who have all taken their own picture wearing our “golden hat” and provided a quote that answers this question: ‘If you were unable to speak until just now, when you received this magical golden hat, what would be the first thing you would say,’” said Lisa Helt, New Projects Director.
The book is filled with photos and quotes come from all kinds of celebrities including: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Christina Aguilera, Kobe Bryant, Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Natalie Portman, Michael Phelps and more.
It also tells the story of Keli, and how he learned to communicate at the age of 10. His picture is also included wearing the magical “golden hat” and what his first words were at the age of 10, “I am real.”
Margret’s son Keli is now 14 years old and is still nonverbal. He has learned to communicate through pointing to letters and enjoys writing poetry. His parents were told in Iceland (their homeland) that their son Keli will probably be institutionalized, and that he had the mental capacity of a two year old. But now Keli is on his way to getting a VHS diploma like his peers.
Leander ISD has been instrumental in their success and has supported a new way to teach and reach nonverbal students with autism. With respect for their intellectual capabilities, they help them to learn communication and then mainstream them in regular classes with their peers.
The Golden Hat Foundation is committed to spreading awareness regarding the intellectual capabilities of those with autism. Winslet, though no one close to her has autism, has stepped forward to start this new Foundation in Austin.
Visit GoldenHatFoundation.org for information.