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NAPA joins effort to 'fix' Autism

People might wonder what autos and autism have in common, other than the first three letters of the words.

It started at a meeting of the Napa Auto Care Center business development group in Syracuse.

"We were looking for something that was worthwhile to give to the community," said Greg Hudson, owner of Hudson & Mowins in the village of Baldwinsville and president of the 35-member group.

They learned that some of the best research on autism is being done at Syracuse University. The guys who know how to fix cars are now raising funds to help develop web-based training for parents and professionals who work with autism. Thirty-five Napa Auto Care Centers have fliers and donation boxes labeled "Autism: Together, we can fix it ... faster."

Autism is presently occurring in an estimated 1 in 150 children. This means that each person or somebody they know is likely connected with autism. Autism can affect any family, any child, despite race, ethnicity, income, lifestyle or education.

Dr. Doug Biklen, Director of the Facilitated Communication Institute at Syracuse University, and his assistant, Marilyn Ann Chadwick, met with the Napa Auto Care Center owners. They explained that in spite of years of research, autism is still, by and large, a mystery. They are discovering new pieces to this puzzle and are focusing on facilitated communication.

"We need to get the word out about how to support communication in a way that builds toward independence and speech," Chadwick said. "We have underestimated and undervalued the potential of people with autism."

Hudson & Mowins is the only local Napa Auto Care Center that is participating in the Autism public awareness and fundraising project. Hudson, carrying on the community-minded spirit of his grandfather and father, has a couple of nephews who are affected by autism. This is his second year as a school board member.

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