BENICIA (KPIX 5) — Thursday marked the eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day in which organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events. This time around, there is a place the Bay Area catering to families with autistic children.
National Autism Resources in Benicia is the first brick-and-mortar store in the Bay Area that specifically caters to children with autism.
Kat Negrete’s has a three-year-old son named Johnny with autism.
“Transition is very difficult for kids with autism–at least mine,” Nagrete told KPIX 5.
Johnny is also extremely sensitive to sound. “Having a kid with autism means you better have extra energy and patience because it’s extremely draining,” Negrete said. “I don’t know when he’s going to lose it and flip out.”
Negrete uses toys and games to keep Johnny calm, trains being his favorite, but she says that products for kids with autism are hard to find.
“I remember going to a popular teaching store and almost breaking down into tears because I asked,’Hey where are your resources for kids with special needs?’ And they said, ‘We actually don’t have any,'” Negrete recalled.
But now Negrete can come to the National Autism Resources store that opened just last September. It’s the first walk-in store on the West Coast and only the third in the country. That might be surprising to some since approximately one out of every sixty-eight American children has an autism spectrum disorder.
“Because this is such a complex disorder, we’re pulling products from 120 vendors to put together this little store–that’s why we probably don’t see more stores,” Bonnie Arnwine, founder of National Autism Resources, said.
Arwine also has a son that has ASD and operated an online store for six years before opening the shop on Goodyear Road.
“This is more than just a job, it’s our calling,” Arwine said. “Our motto is love, hope and support autism.”
From the warehouse in the back to the store front, there are more than 1,600 products. Arwine calls them more than just toys–they are tools.
Arwine showed off a speech device that allows someone who is nonverbal to communicate with others to glowing sea turtle that soothes kids with ASD and helps them sleep.
Negrete said the store is a lifeline for the autistic community–and her family.
“I’m super excited to check this place out,” she said. “I’ve already told my friends and posted on social media sites about this place.”