By Frederick A. Johnsen
Sixteen-year-old Blake Deaton got a P-51 Mustang ride at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017, which fulfilled a promise he was given when he achieved Eagle Scout status. As exciting as that was, Blake would rather talk about a subject much more important to him. Back home in Morehead City, North Carolina, Blake developed two sensory rooms to help kids with autism in schools. That was Blake’s Eagle Scout project, “Wings for Autism,” which he conceived with love and insight.
Blake’s twin brother, Shane, is blind and autistic. The twins’ mother, Suzette Deaton, explains how autistic and other special-needs students can benefit from a sensory room that is calming and outfitted with equipment like swings and a mini-trampoline. There’s science behind making a proper sensory room, and Blake learned the specifics from his brother’s teacher.
The cost to outfit such a room is $10,000. So Blake’s father, Jeff Deaton, and a bunch of their flying friends launched a local fly-in, which raised $5,000 to $6,000. The organizers created and sold special T-shirts, and Blake solicited help from local business leaders. When the final tally came in, Blake’s Eagle Scout project had raised $30,000. That was enough to fund a sensory room for the local high school and middle school, with $10,000 left over for upkeep and equipment for the rooms.
So Blake achieved his goal — and then some — and became an Eagle Scout. End of story, right? Nope. Blake and his father are now exploring what it will take to launch a nonprofit foundation that would fund sensory rooms for schools in each district in their county.
Blake was contemplative and serious as he talked about the need for sensory rooms where kids can decompress. The rooms are not one-size-fits-all. “It’s like a snowflake,” he said. “No child is the same.” While autism has lifelong impact, the Deatons say quality of life can be improved during children’s formative years with things like sensory rooms.
Blake has used his presence on Facebook and YouTube to continue to make life better for children with special needs, and the Boy Scouts of America recently recognized his project as the National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year. His work can be found by Googling “Wings for Autism — Giving God’s Special Angels Wings.”
The Deatons parked their Bonanza at AirVenture before departing Friday for a Boy Scout event. But you can bet this is not the last we’ll hear from Eagle Scout Blake Deaton.