Valley Life for All column: Meet Turner

Jenni Fautsko
Special to The Aspen Times

Editor’s note: The Aspen Times, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles about people in our community who have different abilities.

Meet Turner: Turner brings joy to everyone he meets. He loves to laugh, be hugged and do high-fives. He likes school, and he likes to party. He has a ton of friends.

Turner lives with a rare genetic condition, KIF1A Associated Neurological Disorder (KAND). He uses a wheelchair, has developmental delays and has only a few words that he is able to speak. Yet Turner understands everything. He is delighted to be included in conversation and play.

Turner has the same wants and desires as any 9-year-old. He wants to have friends, play, eat Cheetos, laugh and be silly.

Being Turner’s mom has completely affected my life in many good ways. I’ve learned to look for the miracles. Look and see the good in people and the world. It made my faith and relationship with God a lot stronger. I strive to be more like Turner. To be content with where I’m at and what I’m doing. Our family is stronger.

It’s not easy expecting your life to be different when you’re pregnant and excited about your little baby and not knowing what’s to come. Turner has had many surgeries. It is not easy to watch your child go under anesthesia and wait and pray for the best.

My hope for Turner is that he is happy. I want to give him really fun experiences. Enjoy his life, have fun and have great friends. The kids at school have learned so much from Turner. They don’t see him as different. They’re amazing.

I think an inclusive world really comes down to that — to loving everyone, differences and all. If we did that, it changes the world. It starts with kids. I think if everyone could have that experience or learn that way, it would be a different world. We’ve come so far but there is still a way to go.

I would love if there was an inclusive, accessible playground in our valley. Inclusive play really encourages acceptance and friendship. Such a playground not only allows a child such as Turner to play, but the design incorporates everyone in the same way. No one stands out as weird or different. Right now, there’s nothing Turner can do at any of our playgrounds.

Talk to Turner like a typical child. Just because he doesn’t answer you doesn’t mean he’s not hearing everything. Just because he doesn’t ask for it in words, he answers in different ways. You just have to listen a little differently. That’s my husband’s quote. You have to be a little patient. We call it “Turner Time.”

Rather than staring, come over and say hi. Ask us questions. We would rather the connection than the stares.

Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. We want to hear your voice. Request a training or join the conversation at or #voicability4all. Help us redefine the perception of challenge.