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Carpentry class at Newton Learning Center helps students with autism gain confidence

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) — Students with autism can have a wide variety of skills, abilities, and interests. And at a special education school in Reno, kids from all walks of life are using power tools and wooden blocks to boost their confidence.

Inside Mr. Brad Hayes’ carpentry workshop classroom at Newton’s Learning Center, the green group works hard to saw and sand its own breadboards. Each is as unique as its creator.

“We want to lean on this second draft,” Hayes encourages the class. “These students here are doing better with their breadboards than my students.”

Hayes teaches about 3rd graders at every high school. Each age group develops their carpentry skills project by project.

Samuel Ryan McMahon, 15, has come a long way since his first posting.

“I made birdhouses the first thing that happened here and they were really cool,” he said. “I still have them at home.”

Students learn what each power tool does, how to be comfortable with each one.

“What I like the most is the sliding miter saw because it cuts wood easily,” McMahon said.

Hayes says these kids really know how to make art out of wood.

“When I start talking artistically, some of these girls light up and say, ‘Oh yeah, we could do this and that. And they start thinking and developing an idea and it’s fun to teach them and see them come to life,” Hayes said.

Kaiya Hertell, 16, is one of those flourishing students whose artistic eye turned to woodworking, which was actually one of the main reasons she wanted to come to the learning center of Newton.

“I love making art and would love to do something about it instead of drawing or using paint,” she said. “And they say, ‘Well, this school has a carpentry shop. Here is.’ And I’m like yes!

They are also increasingly aware of the importance of being attentive and of safety equipment such as goggles and ear defenders.

“You can’t mess around or mess around,” Hertell said. “Mr. Brad taught us a lot about safety in carpentry shops and as I said they are really important. You don’t want to ignore his warnings because then you will make mistakes.

“Some tools here, my hands are on their hands,” Hayes said. “I wouldn’t think of any other way to do it.”

And even so, he sees how much their confidence can grow in a short time.

“Newton’s kids are good,” Hayes smiles. “They think differently. They’re a little slower, but they’re so good. I love them.”

And the feeling is mutual.

“He’s a really cool teacher,” McMahon said.

“I actually like Mr. Brad a lot,” Hertell said.

But just to verify that the sentiment was genuine, KOLO 8’s Katey Roshetko asked, “Did he pay you to say that?”

“No,” Hertell said. “No bribes! If he bribed me, I would pull out the money and say, “I have the money.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Newton’s Learning Center hosts 4th Annual Newton Invitational Golf Tournament and Dinner Saturday April 30 at Washoe Golf Course. Check-in begins at 11:00 a.m.; play begins at 1 p.m. at the Washoe County Golf Course (2601 Foley Way).

Tickets are $150 for one person or $550 for a party of four. Ticket prices include green fee, cart, shooting balls and dinner. And if you’re not a golfer, you can come eat and drink for just $50.

There will also be raffle prizes, including for the first time ever, two chances to complete the hole-in-one challenge for $1 million!

All money raised will go to NLC so they can continue to support children with autism and provide a healthy and thriving educational environment for them to learn at their own pace. Click here for more information on how to donate.

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