Autos for Autism revs up

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After walking under the suspended cars and into Paul Biasi’s auto repair, visitors see a streak of brightly colored cards splash the mechanic’s office walls. All are handmade “Thank You’s” from local special needs classes that Autos for Autism has supported. The event started as a conversation between Tim Barnett and Biasi. Then there was a banner on the back of a truck. The idea morphed into a car show with 6 cars, and then 36. This year 70 cars are preregistered and 100 are expected at an event meant to stimulate interest, funds and awareness for Autism and the very special needs in the pulse of our community. From 11:30 – 5 p.m. on Youth Day Autos for Autism Car Show will tie together fun and awareness for both kids and adults at City Park. Aside from the dozens of well loved and polished machines, there will be an interactive mural, Jon Lopez the magician will provide amazing entertainment and high school art students will generously provide their time and offer free puzzle piece face painting. The families of Tim  Barnett and Paul Biasi have been organizing this before last years event was even completed. They were inspired by both their love of classic cars and Barnett’s son Evan, who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 4.  “We have seen no shortage of support, we’ve [financially] hit up at least 120 people, and only one wasn’t in a position to help,” Biasi says.   Evan Barnett will be graduating from Winters Joint Education System this year and the hope is to generate funds for an annual scholarship to support the family, and other special needs families in the future. “Best part about the car shows is I let all the kids get in the car and take their picture and stuff. And parents just love it, but–the look on the kid’s face, it’s… aw boy,” says Biasi, shaking his head and grinning. With over 70 cars pre-registered ,there will be plenty for visitors to cruise between and enjoy. All cars will be considered for the 13 prestigious awards. Awards like: Best Original Car from 1900-1949 and from 1950 onward, Best Modified, Furthest Traveled, Largest Car Club, Best of Show, People’s Choice and “Mike’s Choice.” This last award is a nod to “Mr. Youth Day,” the highly esteemed Mike Sebastian, for his decades of hard work and community dedication to Winters and its Youth Day event. As they say, Youth Day is “… always the last Saturday in April.” As April is also global Autism Awareness month, perhaps this show is quite fitting for a prominent place in the town-wide celebration. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is four times more likely to occur in boys (1 in 37) than in girls (1 in 151).  Early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across a person’s life. Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism.   On average, autism costs an estimated $60,000 a year through childhood, with the bulk of the costs in special services and lost wages related to increased demands on one or both parents. Costs increase with the occurrence of intellectual disability. According to, mothers of children with ASD, who tend to serve as the child’s case manager and advocate, are less likely to work outside the home. On average, they work fewer hours per week and earn 56 percent less than mothers of children with no health limitations and 35 percent less than mothers of children with other disabilities or disorders. More than half of young adults with autism remain unemployed and unenrolled in higher education in the two years after high school. Of the nearly 18,000 people with autism who used state-funded vocational rehabilitation programs in 2014, only 60 percent left the program with a job. Of these, 80 percent worked part-time at a median weekly rate of $160, putting them well below the poverty level. Research demonstrates that job activities that encourage independence reduce autism symptoms and increase daily living skills, but nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job. Kim Spaulding, a local mother with a child who has special needs, is Vice President of Winters All Sports Booster Club and teacher of several life skills classes. Spaulding is a mentor and advocate for students with special needs, their parents and participation in Community Based Instruction. She is doing all this while she concurrently finishes her credential courses. Complementing her efforts is Marin Spaulding, who’s efforts to bring about the successful Team Davis tournament several weeks ago at Winters High was met with acclaim.   “Our community is one of the most embracing,” Kim says. Kim proudly relates that her son Tynam Nathaniel Spaulding, who is 22, is product of the Winters Joint Unified School District, that he has earned an Eagle Scout ranking in the Boy Scouts, has played modified varsity football, was part of the swim team and an FFA officer. “The more we got him involved the higher he was functioning, and getting him out there made the difference,” Kim says.   An average day for Spaulding involves teaching four periods of life skills classes. Often her students will join in culinary or ceramics classes with modified instruction where she will support them and the teacher. After school, Spaulding delivers and collects students that hold part time jobs at such places as Round Table or the school district office. Funds are being used to promote Community Based Instruction programs like these. Academics, life skills and employment, provide students with important transitional skills that ready them for independence. Students learn about things like going to the grocery store to buy supplies to make dinner, using a Lyft app, and generally functioning out and about independently. They have an upcoming is a trip to the zoo. Kim is looking forward to learning opportunities like going to the airport or taking a train ride. The future of Autos for Autism What started as a vehicle for community awareness has generated unstoppable momentum “We already have plans for next year. We’re pushing to make it bigger. We’re really trying to make this thing pop,” says an enthusiastic Biasi. “Our goal this year is to generate enough money to get our own non-profit organization started, and then create a scholarship for a special needs family. What better way for us to show the public that their support is actually coming full circle?” “Tim [Barnett] and I get so excited and caught up talking about this. Next year there’s going to be a [California Highway Patrol] car bash. You pay 20 bucks and you get three swings at the car with a sledgehammer,” says a delighted Biasi. Despite the name, the money raised doesn’t all go to programs for students with autism. “The money supports the Elementary, Middle and High schools in the special needs classrooms,” Biasi says.  Colby Shaw is helping Biasi organize Autos for Autism as her senior Capstone project. Shaw, upon turning 18 this April, celebrated her own Autistic brother with a colorful tattoo of a puzzle piece on her forearm. According to the “The puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum. The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition.”   “Last year was a big learning experience for us,” Biasi says. When asked what he learned, Biasi said simply. “We learned where to make more money. Last year was an invitational, so we didn’t charge an entry fee. Now (there’s) a $30 fee with 100 cars. There’s our car show fees alone.” “We’re learning so much. Already next year is going to be even better,” Biasi says. ]]>

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