Tag Archives: Wynston Browne

Roundup: Wynston Browne, Water Conservation, 9/11 Memorial …

Wynston Brown continues to inspire us all.

The non-speaking autistic teenager was once thought to be intellectually disabled. In July, “06880” described his astonishing progress, since he began using a special communication board a year ago.

Earlier this month he met customers at The Porch @ Christie’s. He showed them his spelling device, and answered questions.

Wynston Browne with his spelling board.

Wynston was there again Monday — the day before beginning his sophomore year at Staples High School. Owner Andrea Pecoriello hosted him.

His mother Lynda Kommel-Browne says: “Wynston had a nice conversation with 4 families, who were not familiar with non-speakers and spelling boards. Wynston beamed with pride and energy to show folks his communication skills. It was a great eye-opening experience for all.

Wynston Browne and his communication partner, Elisa Feinman, show his spelling board to customers at The Porch. His brother Harrison is standing (right).

“Wynston’s 16-year-old brother Harrison beamed with pride too, seeing customers take an interest in Wyn, and seeing Wyn respond to questions with high level answers.

“For example, he said, ‘In biology we are studying macro molecules …  carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. Carbohydrates is your body’s main energy source.'”

He talked about “The Kite Runner” too — and asked some of his new friends questions like what they like to eat at The Porch.

Wynston’s world is opening up — and he is opening up ours. “06880” will continue to report on his progress, and on opportunities for Westporters to meet him.

Wynston Browne, with younger customers.

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Following up on yesterday’s water conservation measures, a reader writes:

“We use the ‘speed load’ setting. Our washing machine runs for 25 minutes, instead of an hour and 10 minutes on the regular setting. Our clothes get just as clean — we have never had an issue with that.”

Any other water-saving ideas? Click “Comments” below.

Select “quick wash,” which you probably never noticed before.

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Connecticut’s official 9/11 memorial is at Sherwood Island State Park for 2 reasons.

On that horrific day 21 years ago, people gathered on the shore saw smoke rise from the Twin Towers 50 miles away.

And the area was ready to be used as a staging area for rescue helicopters. Sadly, none were needed.

Two decades later, the simple memorial attracts a steady stream of visitors. It includes the names of state residents who died in the terrorist attacks.

Each year, there is a remembrance ceremony at the Sherwood Island Living Memorial. This year’s is set for Thursday, September 8 (5:30 p.m.). Family members of those killed will participate, and the names of the 161 victims with ties to Connecticut will be read aloud.

The ceremony will be livestreamed at ct-n.com. An on-demand video will be made available there shortly after its conclusion.

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

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Tomorrow’s “Jazz at the Post” stars Rob Henke & the Cook County Stompers.

Greg Murphy, Tim Ferguson, Sipho Kunene and Greg Wall — the “Jazz Rabbi” — play 2 sets at VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399 (7 and 8:30 p.m.; dinner at 6:30; $10 cover).

The Thursday night series has earned an avid following. The jazz is great; the acoustics are superb; the food is excellent, and the view is superb.

What’s not to like?

Reservations are strongly suggested: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Cook County Stompers

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If you haven’t been to an Artists Collective of Westport pop-up show: Pop in to the next one.

Held, as always, in the Westport Country Playhouse barn, it features works by homeless veterans. The art was created in classes run by the Collective, at Bridgeport’s Homes for the Brave shelter.

There’s a reception next Wednesday (September 7, 6 to 8 p.m.), and an artists’ talk Saturday, September 10 (4 p.m.). The works are on display to the public September 8 to 10, from 2 to 6 p.m. each day.

The Artists’ Collective does great work, very quietly. They don’t toot their own horns. So I’ll toot it for them.

See you at the show!

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I hate to keep throwing barbs at Hook’d.

But really, the Compo Beach concession is just mailing it in.

Earlier this summer, after sharp comments on “06880,” they finally began posting their hours on the door.

That’s gone now.

With the doors locked yesterday, this was the scene:

(Photo/Yvonne Senturia)

That’s still better than a few days ago. The doors were locked then. The sandwich board sign was out.

But the arrow was pointing the wrong way.

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School started yesterday. And — right on cue — there was this familiar sight at the Imperial Avenue parking lot:

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

Readers sometimes wonder what they’re doing there.

The answer makes sense: It’s a spot for drivers to gather between runs, without having to navigate the cramped, busy entrance and exit at the Dattco lot across from Playhouse Square.

Once in the morning there, and again in the afternoon, is plenty.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is X-rated.

Michael and Valerie Szeto write: “With Cole Porter’s permission. one might say, ‘Birds do it, bees do it, even Westport horseshoe crabs do it … let’s do it, let’s fall in love!'”

(Photo/Valerie Szeto)

This shot of mating horseshoe crabs was taken in the shallow water off Owenoke Park. Michael spotted it; Valerie snapped it.

The couple then left, giving this other couple some privacy.

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And finally … it wasn’t hard to figure out today’s song, was it?

(Birds and bees don’t do it, but we hope you will: Support “06880.” Please click here to contribute.)

Roundup: Jose Feliciano, Hiking Trails, Utility Wires …

José Feliciano is an international star.

And he’s our wonderful Weston neighbor and friend.

Many of those friends will be at New York’s Angelika Theater this Friday (September 2, 7 p.m.). They’ll celebrate the theatrical release of the film “José Feliciano: Behind This Guitar.”

The movie’s website says: “From the slums of Puerto Rico to the world stage, José Feliciano embarks upon a 55+ year career and becomes a 9-time Grammy winner.

“From ‘Light My Fire’ to ‘Feliz Navidad’ to ‘Chico and the Man’ to global stardom, the film chronicles this under-appreciated singer/songwriter/ musician.”

Click below for the trailer. Then — if you can’t be at the Angelika — watch the film when you can.

And when you see José around town, tell him: “¡Felicidades!”

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Thayer Fox writes:

“My wife and I moved to Westport about a year and a half ago, and fell deeply in love with Westport.

“I am an avid hiker, but have mostly struck out finding good hikes with great views. I’ve been through Devil’s Den, Lake Windwing and Bennett’s Preserve, but still feel like I haven’t fully figured it out.

“Can you ask your readers for suggestions? With fall coming, this is a great time to go hiking.”

Done!

Readers: Please help Thayer (and every other new resident/avid hiker). Click “Comments” below, and tell us your favorite trails.

Devil’s Den. Where else can Thayer hike this fall? (Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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Longtime Westporter Michael Brennecke writes:

“Driving around, I constantly see trucks stringing up new wiring on telephone poles. I wonder, given that there are only 3 companies (I believe) delivering cable services around here, are all of those fat wires still active?

“I asked one of the crews if they ever take down obsolete wires. The answer was that they have no clue. I suspect there are a lot of derelict wires, and taking them down is a cost the companies do not want to incur.

“Only the very top wires on the poles are actually power lines, and they are comparatively thin. It’s really unsightly wire pollution, and it’s getting worse all the time.”

Utility wires near Westport. Some may actually be in use. (Photo/Mike Brennecke)

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Wynston Browne — the non-speaking autistic rising Staples High School senior, whose ability to communicate using a simple board device inspired and thrilled Westporters this summer — returns to The Porch @ Christie’s today (Monday, August 29, 12:45 to 2 p.m.).

During his visit earlier this month, he used his letter board to speak with customers. He answered questions about his life, in a session that was as gratifying for them as it was for him.

Wynston looks forward to meeting new friends again today, at the popular Cross Highway gathering spot.

Wynston and Elisa Feinman, at work with his spelling board.

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I don’t care if you are from out of town. The sign is pretty clear: “Boat Launch Ramp/No Parking.” For extra clarity it’s paved, while all the cars around it are parked on grass.

But this Masshole didn’t care.

David Meth reports: “The driver took a photo of the sky while standing near the sign. She opened the back door, took out her folding chair and walked to another part of the beach. I was on my way out. I told one of the guys at the entrance.”

(Photo/David Meth)

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Continuing our drought coverage, Peggy O’Halloran says of this sad tree at Grace Salmon Park: “It looks like it already has a headstone.”

(Photo/Peggy O’Halloran)

And thought the lack of rain has done a number on Tracy Porosoff’s hydrangeas …

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

… her basil is thriving:

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

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All of the above leads to today’s “Westport … Naturally” shot. No drab colors here!

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)

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And finally … in honor of José Feliciano’s new film (story above), a few moments from his amazing career:

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Roundup: Catch A Lift, Wynston Browne, Railroad Bridge …

For the past decade, Westport has had a special relationship with Catch A Lift Fund. The national non-profit provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal physically and mentally, through physical fitness.

Westporters have donated funds, welcomed veterans, and joined in workouts at venues like the police station, VFW, beach and Birchwood Country Club. The vets give plenty back in return — as inspiration, and  serving as “angels” for children, teens and adults with disabilities through myTeamTriumph.

This year, Westport organizers invite our Fairfield neighbors to join us. Our first-ever Catch a Lift Golf & Tennis Outing is set for September 12, at the Patterson Club.

Click here for the many ways to participate, through golf, tennis, the cocktail party, and as sponsors.

And — because the vets are naturally competitive, in the gym and in life — this golf and tennis event involves a bit of competition too.

Check out the video below, to see the challenges between the Westport and Fairfield police chiefs and 1st selectwomen.

Because this is “06880,” not “06430,” I’m putting my money squarely on Foti and Jen.

 

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Speaking of special people: Wynston Browne’s story inspired many “06880” readers last month. The rising Staples High School sophomore is non-speaking autistic, but he is highly intelligent. He’s made spectacular strides recently using a communication device.

Today (Wednesday, August 10, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Wynston will “speak” (via his letter board) with interested residents at The Porch @ Christie’s.

He looks forward to sharing and learning more about everyone who stops by.

Wynston and his communication partner Elisa Feinman, at work with his spelling board.

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Elise Zimmerman asks: “Did you (and your readers know) that the tracks at the Westport train station flip up — like a draw bridge — for big boats?

“I witnessed this engineering feat today, and was very impressed. The train was delayed only a few minutes.”

I can’t speak for any other readers, but I sure knew.

In an amazing coincidence though, just 2 hours earlier Seth Schachter had sent me a collector’s postcard. It shows the same scene, from a different angle.

And from about 100 years earlier:

(Postcard courtesy of Seth Schachter)

Elise adds: “Do any of the other bridges on the Saugatuck River open up? If not, where is the boat going?!”

Have a seat, Elise. Let me tell you about the William F. Cribari Bridge …

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Bass master Brian Torff headlines tomorrow’s Jazz at the Post.

That’s the special Thursday night jazz series at VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399. Sets begin at 7 and 8:30 p.m.; dinner from 6:30, from chef Derek Furino.

The cover is just $10. Reservations are strongly recommended; email JazzatThePost@gmail.com.

Plan ahead:

  • August 18, David Morgan Trio
  • August 25: Ben Williams Jazz All-Stars
  • September 1: Rob Henke’s Cook County Stompers.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about telescopes, but didn’t even know to ask.

That’s the subject of the next Westport Astronomical Society’s lecture (August 16, 8 p.m.). Observatory director Bob Meadows is back from the 86tn Convention of Amateur Telescope Makers in Vermont, and will dish on the latest innovations.

Click here for the Zoom link; click here to watch on YouTube.

The Westport Observatory has a very impressive telescope. (Photo/Frank Rosen)

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Amy Simon Fine Art’s next exhibition (August 13 to September 17) is “Never-Ending Stories.” Featured artists are Clara Fialho and Ayse Wilson.

The gallery is at 123 Post Road East.

“Walking Through a Rose Garden Naked” (Clara Fialho)

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Wendy Van Wie sends along a “Westport … Naturally” challenge: Can you find the 3 goldfinches hiding in the sunflowers?

(Photo/Wendy Van Wie)

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And finally … Lamont Dozier died Monday in Arizona. He was 81.

I love many genres of music. But Motown is at the top of my list.

And for many of us who grew up listening to it, the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland was Motown.

They crafted an astonishing 80-plus Top 40 pop or R&B hits. An amazing 15 went to #1 — including 10 by the Supremes.

Click here for a full obituary. Click here for a list of all their songs. Then click “Comments” below to share your favorites.

It’s tough. My top 5 are here:

Wynston Browne: Autism Does Speak

Helen Keller lived for many years in Easton.

A few miles away in Westport, Wynston Browne is a 21st-century Helen Keller.

The Staples High School rising sophomore is severely autistic. He does not speak.

From his diagnosis before he was 2 years old, to just a year or so ago, everyone — including his parents and 4 siblings — thought he was intellectually disabled. His IQ was believed to be 60 or so. The books read to him were 1st-grade level.

With his detached look and inability to focus, he was assumed to be off-the-charts disabled.

Last week I spent a couple of hours with Wynston and his parents, Lynda Kommel-Browne and David. It may have been the most astonishing, eye-opening afternoon of my life.

Research shows that for Wynston and others, the inability to speak is not cognitive. It’s muscular.

He cannot make connections between his brain, and his mouth, jaw and tongue. But Wynston’s brain is spectacularly active.

And it always has been.

Using a spelling board — a simple, low-tech device with letters and numbers he points to — and working with an extremely gifted, dedicated and professionally trained communication partner named Elisa Feinman, Wynston has made great progress in the past year.

Wynston’s low-tech spelling board. Pointing to letters is easier than typing, for someone without fine motor skills.

But in the last month, his parents say, his growth has been phenomenal — about 10 years’ worth of progress. They now know he can graduate from high school, and go on to college.

He might even follow the path blazed by Dan Bergmann, a non-speaking Harvard Extension School graduate, who gave his school’s commencement address.

Or the co-valedictorian at Rollins College, Elizabeth Bonker,

Wynston might follow 2 top University of California-Berkeley undergraduates, one of whom graduated with a 4.0 GPA. He’s headed to Vanderbilt, to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience.

Or UCLA’s first non-verbal graduate,who earned summa cum laude honors.

During the pandemic, Lynda and David heard about organizations promoting the idea that non-speakers had motor — not intellectual — differences. Wynston began working with the letter board about a year ago.

He points to the letter he wants, to spell out words. It’s easier than typing. Because of motor difficulties, when non-verbal people make typos, it’s assumed they lack intelligence.

Elisa holds the board for Wynston. But what he does with it is amazing.

It’s inspirational. And life-changing.

Wynston and Elisa, at work with his spelling board.

In the past month, Wynston’s parents have watched in wonder as he not only answers questions and does math problems, but demonstrates abstract thinking. He expresses his emotions — something it seemed he was never able to describe — and answers open-ended, personal questions.

On Fathers Day, Wynston spelled out, and Elise wrote down, a card to his dad.

“I like to give my dad hugs,” he said. He wanted to honor his father by being “the best person I can.” He vowed to work hard “to increase my skills like communication.”

His spelling board, he added, makes him feel “happy.”

Wynston’s Fathers Day card. He spelled out the answers to Elisa Feinman’s questions; she wrote them down.

Suddenly, Wynston’s world has been unlocked. It’s not unlike Helen Keller spelling “water” for the first time with Anne Sullivan.

There were several books on Wynston’s table. I chose a biography about Temple Grandin — the scientist, animal behaviorist and autism advocate.

I read a few pages out loud. Wynston did not make eye contact; it looked like he was not even listening.

But he sure was.

Wynston Browne learned — and remembered — everything about Temple Grandin.

When I was finished, Elisa asked him some questions. Where did Grandin earn her master’s? (Arizona State). What was her major? (Animal science.) What was her highest degree? (Ph.D.).

He did the same with a book about the atom bomb, which Elisa had read to him a couple of days earlier. He remembered Lyman Briggs (head of FDR’s Uranium Committee — a name and group I’d never heard of), He spelled every word correctly — including “physicist,” which trips up many people.

And he did it all despite never having had a formal spelling lesson.

For years, Lynda says, “He was learning basic math. Because he couldn’t express how easy it was, he exhibited extreme behavior” — rocking and other motions. “That reinforced for others that he did not understand basic math. Bur really, he knew much more than that.”

Elisa held up a board with numbers. Wynston quickly went through addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems well beyond “basic math.”

Then it was time for a chess lesson. The game demands many types of intelligence: pattern recognition, thinking ahead, analytical skills, long-term memory.

Wynston made his moves quickly and confidently.

Scenes like these excite and hearten his parents — and make them angry and wistful too. They rue the nearly 15 years they held low expectations for him. They wonder what he felt all those years, with so much intelligence bottled up inside, and no way to express it.

Wynston Browne (3rd from left), with his parents and 4 siblings.

“I get goosebumps,” Elisa says, her voice breaking. “I feel we wasted so much time. But now he will excel. and we will push him as far as we can.”

“Wynston is not non-verbal,” Lynda emphasizes. “He is non-speaking.”

She notes one small sign of Wynston’s abilities to think deep thoughts, and express them well. The other day, she asked him which dog he preferred: his service animal, or the family pet.

He chose the one with “a calm temper.”

On the outside, Wynston may not seem calm. He rocks, makes repetitive motions, and is in constant motion.

It took nearly 15 years for the people closest to him — his parents — to realize that his brain was moving just as rapidly. He had thoughts, ideas and feelings — but no way to “speak” them.

Now he does.

Wynston Browne is non-verbal. But he’s not unintelligent.

Far from it. He’s learning how to communicate well. He’s learning many things people thought he never could.

And the rest of us are learning that he may very well be gifted.

(Hat tip: Jill Johnson Mann)

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