Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided

When Chastity Aponte first moved to Muncie from New York, she heard that Ivy Tech was affordable and that the professors were great.

“I’ve always wanted to work with kids, but it wasn’t until I started at Ivy Tech and was going through the education program that it hit me that I wanted to teach,” says Aponte.

But it was more than that. She wanted to help kids with disabilities. When her son was diagnosed with autism, that passion only grew deeper. Initially she planned to teach in an inclusive classroom.

“My time at Ivy Tech really turned the gears and helped define my purpose,” says Aponte, who graduated from Ivy Tech in 2019 with an associate degree in education.Chastity Aponte

Now she’s learning all about applied behavior analysis at Ball State University, where she works with kids on the autism spectrum.

“I provide children with daily living skills,” says Aponte. “I help them learn to read, write and communicate.”

Aponte will earn her master’s degree from Ball State in the spring of 2024. Currently, Aponte is a program coordinator at Conduct Curb Anderson Autism Behavior Center. In the future she hopes to get her license, become a behavior analyst, and open up her own behavior center that will offer services for children 18 and older once they age out of the typical services and programs.

“My son is 6 now but he’s going to get older, and his diagnosis isn’t going to go away,” she says. She knows that for kids on the spectrum, programs and services melt away after their 18th birthday, as do support and friendships, which is heartbreaking.

“I don’t want my son to be in that predicament where he doesn’t have any services after he becomes an adult, so I want to provide help not only for my son, but also to all the other coming-up adults who still need services,” says Aponte, who enjoys helping others.

During COVID-19 when everything was shut down, she started a parent support group so that parents could connect and collaborate. One stay-at-home mom shared how she struggled to communicate with her nonverbal son. She asked for suggestions on ways to increase his communication skills. Aponte told her to put a bunch of visuals on a board and place them all around the house so he could point to what he wanted or needed.

“He went from screaming and having tantrums to being able to point to what he wants, whether that’s a food, a toy or a bath,” says Aponte. “Now that he’s able to functionally communicate what he wants, he doesn’t have to scream or cry all the time.”

Aponte also suggested that the mom make a booklet and take it with her in public to restaurants and supermarkets, which has worked beautifully.

“It makes my heart happy when I can help others,” says Chastity Aponte. “I’m a strong advocate for the autism population. I’ll always have a voice for them.”

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