Dad launches car wash review channel on YouTube for his son with autism
Clint Baker's YouTube channel has acquired hundreds of dedicated subscribers, many of whom are also autistic
It's an overcast day, and Clint Baker inches toward a Hamilton car wash with his son Vince beside him in the passenger seat. The camera is rolling.
I will literally go through four or five car washes in a row. My car will be spotless, but I want the videos for my son.- Clint Baker
The start is rocky. The keypad is broken, so it doesn't beep when Baker enters his five-digit code. As he enters the car wash, he narrates for the camera.
"It did really good coverage on the pre soak," he says. "Let's see if it does more than one pass."
The two wait in silence for a moment. "It doesn't look like it's gonna."
Baker has done this at 115 automatic car washes in the past year for his unexpectedly popular YouTube car wash review channel, Reviews by Vince. It's a project he started for nine-year-old Vince, who has autism. The channel has 430 loyal subscribers.
Baker comments on the value ($17 is too expensive for this Ancaster one, he says), the gentleness of the brushes, and the merits of getting gas first, among other factors.
His commenters — many of whom are autistic — talk back to him. They chime in on the type of system, the tricolour foam coverage and the merits of a touch versus touchless wash.
"Let's see who can be the first person in the comments below to tell me the correct name of this system," Baker says during one review.
Someone responds. "That machine is built by Mark VII."
"Tomorrow when you're in this area, can you review the Shell car wash again and do the touchless one this time?" says a commenter after a Scarborough review.
"I seen spots on the glass," says another.
You've got the swishing. You've got the back and forth. You've got the cars driving through. There are so many sensory pieces to it.- Katharine Buchan , Autism Ontario
Baker, who lives just outside Hamilton in Brant County, started the channel last August. Since Vince was a baby, Baker said, he's loved car washes, as well as elevators, escalators and automatic doors.
"Every time I went to get a car wash, it would be a treat for him to go with me," he said. "It was one of a very small number of things that stimulated him."
As a sales manager for ROI Ergonomics, Baker puts about 60,000 kilometres on his vehicle each year. And "I like a clean vehicle," he said.
At first, he said, he saved videos of his car washes on a USB stick to show Vince later. But he worried the hard drive that stored them would crash.
Sometimes, "I will literally go through four or five car washes in a row," he said. "My car will be spotless, but I want the videos for my son."
Car washes seem to be a fairly common love among people with autism. There's even a car wash in Florida, Rising Tide, created to hire people with autism.
Andrew D'Eri, who has autism, inspired his dad and uncle, John and Tom D'Eri, to start Rising Tide in 2013. The company just opened a second location. It calls itself one of the largest employers of people with autism in the U.S.
Autism impacts the way the brain processes information, said Katharine Buchan, Autism Ontario's education materials co-ordinator. She hasn't heard specifically of the car wash interest, but it doesn't surprise her.
"People with autism typically have different sensory profiles, which means they can be over or under sensitive to lights, sounds, touch," she said.
"It makes sense that a car wash would be something that someone with autism might really enjoy taking part in, or looking at on YouTube. You've got the swishing. You've got the back and forth. You've got the cars driving through. There are so many sensory pieces to it."
As for the Ancaster car wash, it follows the standard format. After a pre soak, the machine spurts rainbows of tricoloured foam over the windows. Then the round brushes flap like bird wings over the vehicle. "Boo," Vince says at one point.
Baker leaves feeling all right about it. "It looks like it did an OK job," he tells viewers, of which there are about 5,200 so far.
Then again, "my vehicle wasn't overly dirty to begin with."