Teachers at Winona Elementary School held a “Disney Day” for two of their students to give them an experience they will never forget after an incident made their family abruptly cancel their vacation plans.
Jasper and Jaron Welch were surprised with their very own magical celebration, along with all of the students at Winona Elementary. Parents Kyle Welch and Lorayne Boyce took their boys on a family vacation and were asked to leave when Jasper, who is autistic, wouldn’t put on his mask.
Welch said once Jasper’s teachers in Winona learned of the incident, they quickly began planning a way to make Jasper and Jaron feel special.
“We found out the same night it happened,” Welch said.
He said Jasper’s teacher, Iva Faulk, helped to put on Disney Day with the help of other teachers and staff at the school. The Disney Day was completed with princesses, Mickey and Minnie, and decorations.
Welch said they weren’t able to be there in person, but he and Boyce have seen the videos and photos and could tell Jasper and his brother Jaron were excited about the special day planned for them.
“We know that he adores his teacher, so from the pictures it looks like Jasper had fun. I know Jaron had fun,” Welch said.
He said they’re still learning as to where Jasper is on the autism spectrum, but he’s non-verbal. Things that seem small to most people, like a trip to the store, require a routine for Jasper.
“He’s getting better at communicating, it’s a hard one,” Welch said. “He doesn’t like going into crowded stores, so when we’re in the store and he’s pulling and throwing a tantrum, people stare at us. They think it’s a parenting problem. Like if we’re in Walmart and sees the door, he’s going to start pulling because he wants to leave.”
Welch said the problem is many people don’t understand autism and don’t understand how to effectively communicate with someone who has autism.
“Some days are better than others,” Welch said.
He said they’re thankful to be in Winona. The family, who is originally from Oregon, said when they lived there Jasper didn’t go to school; he went to a place for his speech. However, with Winona Elementary, the administration, staff and teachers have made Jasper and Jaron feel welcome.
Welch said his son Jaron’s teacher also has a son on the autism spectrum as well as their neighbors. He said the administration, teachers, and even Jasper’s bus driver has taken the time to learn what he likes, doesn’t like, and assured them that Jasper would be okay.
He said through this experience, they’ve developed relationships with some of the teachers there and others have reached out to them.
They said here in Winona, they’ve met families who understand the journey they’re on with learning about Jasper’s autism and how to help him understand it, which ultimately will help him in the long run. They said they hope that more education is put out about autism and more is taught about how people can effectively interact with autistic children and adults.
“Even my family back in Oregon, they didn’t really understand,” Welch said. “But, the teachers at Winona Elementary have made him welcomed and they let us know that they care about him. We’re thankful for that.”