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An Autism Focused Shop Expands In Minnetonka

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A book and toy store like none other is having a grand opening Friday.

The Autism Shop in Hopkins has moved to a larger and more accessible location in Minnetonka's Sundial Center near Shady Oak Road.

Owners moved the shop to Minnetonka because they couldn't showcase all their products. The new shop is double the size of the old location.

Cherri and David Saltzman own the shop. They opened the Hopkins store 16 years ago. They have a daughter in her 20's that was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.

"Back then there wasn't much hopeful opportunity for kids diagnosed with autism," David Saltzman said.

The Saltzmans acted quickly, and 10 years after their daughter was diagnosed, her condition improved. After that, Cherri Saltzman knew she didn't want to walk away from the autism community.

"People come in here looking for anything on the autism spectrum," David Saltzman said. "If the kids are relatively low functioning that means that their verbal skills aren't very good … There are kids in other parts of the autism spectrum that are verbal but have social issues."

The store has more than 1,200 products that help children and adults develop with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders).

"A number of these toys and books are to help kids develop their sensory abilities, their verbal abilities and so on," Saltzman said.

Saltzman also has a table sized wooden train track setup in the shop that kids can play with. When the train is moved, it makes noise.

"It's nice to be able to give them something to play with that kind of responds to them," Saltzman said.

The store carries a number of popular books that tell autistic kids how to deal with their own emotions. They also carry a line of music CD's created by a Minnesota speech pathologist.

"Kids with autism who are non-verbal can often sing before they can speak," Cherri Saltzman said. "Music travels a different path to the brain than the spoken word."

Some of their business comes from curious people walking in, but much of their business is done online; they're hoping the new location will change that.

"We also do a large Internet-based business. And also we have a large clientele of school districts throughout the United States," Saltzman said.

Their new shop also has a large back office where they do their shipping across the country and the world.

"A number of the things that you find here can be found in other places, but they're in more traditional retailers without a concentration just in the autism spectrum," David Saltzman said.

Cherri and David say, over the years, they've seen the cases of ASD grow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 2009 study showed that ASD grew 57 percent in 10 locations from 2002 to 2006.

The Autism Shop is a not for profit corporation and its proceeds benefit autism research and support.

NewsRadio 830 WCCO's Edgar Linares Reports


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