Volunteer Aids in Breakthrough for Student with Autism

Teachers at Reeds Spring Primary School credit a volunteer with helping a kindergarten student with autism overcome an obstacle. All school year, Ayden Chaplin refused to enter the school gym.

“He was just terrified of the gym. He wouldn’t walk past it without screaming,” said special education teacher Tennile Lee.

That meant Ayden did not participate in physical education classes. He also missed group activities like concerts and assemblies. Throughout the school year, Mrs. Lee and special ed paraprofessionals tried to help Ayden overcome his fear. They tried several strategies to get Ayden into the gym, but nothing worked.

“We finally got him to where he would walk past the gym doors without screaming, but he was shielding himself,” Lee said.

In January, Adam Gasper began volunteering with Mrs. Lee’s special education class. Gasper, a 2016 Reeds Spring graduate, also has autism.

“The first day Adam came, Ayden just instantly ran up to him. He had no idea who Adam was, but he just gave Adam a big hug,” Lee said. “It was a pretty special bond, you could tell.”

Mrs. Lee had Gasper ask Ayden if he wanted to play basketball.

“Adam opened the door to the gym and Ayden followed him right in. He started playing basketball like he owned the place,” Lee said.

The next day, Ayden requested to go to the gym. He now goes almost every day.

“He’s been able to go to PE and concerts. He’s adjusted well,” Lee said.

Gasper has also benefitted from the relationship.

“Ayden is fun. He is my friend,” Gasper said.

Lee said her personal goal for the year was to get Ayden into the gym. Thanks to Adam Gasper, that goal became a slam dunk.
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