Music therapeutic for pair of autistic children

Chico boys currently members of the band 'Jet Fuel Only' featured in People magazine

By Minerva Perez
Last Updated: December 26, 2006, 12:37:40 AM PST

Los Baños resident Charlie Manzanedo said the success of his two young grandsons' band doesn't surprise him.

After all when they set their sights on something "they don't go half-way they go all the way," he said.

What does continue to amaze him is how music gave them a new lease on life after years as social outcasts.

Manzanedo's grandchildren, Chico residents Evan and Sawyer Goodson have gained fans and friends as members of Jet Fuel Only and have also given hope to many families heartbroken by their children's isolation due to autism.

Sawyer, 13, has Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism, that makes communication and social interaction difficult. Throughout their childhood, the two boys were often taunted and teased by classmates for differences Sawyer couldn't control.

"I talked to my daughter this morning and she said the boys have gotten 10,000 e-mails from as far away as Belgium and Israel," Manzanedo said. "She said a mother whose son is autistic opened up the magazine and was inspired."

Manzanedo is referring to the Dec. 11 People Magazine feature of the band and the how the Goodson family uses music as therapy.

"He [Sawyer] was shy and withdrawn, had trouble socializing," said Mary Francis Manzanedo, Evan and Sawyer's aunt. "Now he's more verbal more outgoing."

The Manzanedo's believe the band and more importantly, music, gave the two boys the confidence they need to reach out to others.

It wasn't an easy road though.

About two years ago, Dan Goodson bought his sons instruments after researching music's effect on brain development. At first, Sawyer didn't like the sensation of guitar strings on his fingertips but he quickly took to the drums. His brother, Evan, 11, proved to be a natural on the electric guitar.

Together with some friends they formed Jet Fuel Only and have been playing around Chico schools. They are on their way to becoming a must-see band, largely in part because of the boys' musical skills.

"They are really smart boys. They were really into airplanes at one time and could tell you anything about them," said Mary Francis. "They came down one holiday and all of a sudden they knew everything about guitars and rock music."

A rock fanatic herself, Mary Francis said she was thrilled to be able to talk about rock-and-roll and her favorite bands with her nephews, and give input to their music.

"They are really good," she said. "They mainly play covers now like Weezer and Black Sabbath but they can basically play anything."

The boys have jammed a little bit in Los Baños, their mother's hometown, at the New Beginnings church and the Oddfellows Lodge where their grandfather is a member.

In the coming year, the band will be on their way to New York to perform on the Rachel Ray television show and networks have expressed interest in the band as well.

But they boys are not aware of all that "stuff," Charlie Manzanedo said.

"They don't know what is going on," he said. "Their parents are making sure to protect them and let them be kids."

For now, Jet Fuel Only is just enjoying being a small town band even though they are just as good as musicians twice their age and experience. But the sky is the limit, Mary Francis said.

"They don't thrive on publicity," she said. "It's about getting the word out about autism."

Charlie Manzanedo agrees that his grandsons being actually good rock musicians will help bring awareness to music as therapy.

"To me it's not the band itself," he said. "To me they are promoting therapy. The music is a plus."

For more information on Jet Fuel Only visit Enterprise reporter Minerva Perez can be reached by phone at (209) 826-3831, or by e-mail at