Watching a young
Snyder has dreams just like anyone his age.
The difference is he took his dream to
become a music producer and ran with it –
all while struggling with cerebral palsy
By Karen Cotton
|Twenty-two-year old Aaron Snyder of Cheyenne is
a thin, happy-go-lucky college student finishing
his last year at Orlando Florida’s Audio
Recording Technology Institute.
With the experience he’s gaining in recording,
mixing music and film production, Aaron says he
has dreams of becoming a producer in the music
In other words, big dreams.
You’d never realize the years of struggle and
surgery he’s persevered through in order to
dream and likely achieve his goals.
“In September or October of 2005, I was getting
discontent and restless,” Aaron says as he
stutters lightly. “I knew I didn’t belong in
Cheyenne anymore and that there was something
else out there for me.
“I wanted to be somewhere else.”
That November, he began looking online for audio
“I found this one in Orlando and knew it was
where I wanted to be,” he said. “I wasn’t
scared, or nervous. I knew that’s where I needed
to be, but it was hard on my family and
Aaron’s bubbly personality, ability to make
friends and ‘Just Do It’ attitude has helped him
overcome the odds while he has struggled with
moderate cerebral palsy.
Leaving the nest
Aaron’s departure came as a bit of a surprise
for his parents.
“We kind of always thought he would live at home
and we’d have to take care of him,” says Ken,
Instead, Ken and his wife are watching a young
“We’re proud of him that he’s out there in
school and hopefully he can make it on his own,”
Ken says. “He’ll get a job somewhere and be able
to take care of himself.”
His mother, Jan, says when Aaron told his
parents that he wanted to go to school in
Florida it was hard for her to imagine.
“He was so determined and my husband said that I
should let him go,” she says. “It was what we
had always hoped for.
“We call and support him and make sure
everything is OK and that his needs are being
met,” Jan says.
The first time she took Aaron out to Florida was
“We flew and I rented a car,” Jan says. “As I’m
driving I was trying to think of him doing
She said she felt overwhelmed and emotional and
asked him, “‘Aaron isn’t this overwhelming to
you at all?’”
He said to his mom, “No, it’s not. I know I can
“Once he packed up, as a family, we knew that we
had to let him try,” Jan says.
Loving support in numbers
Even while in Florida, Aaron has his own morale
and support team in Cheyenne.
Among them are an older brother, Caleb, 25, and
a younger one, Michah, 12.
“His littlest brother has problems with him
because he gets teased by him a lot,” Ken says.
“They get along, but he’s always teasing him
about Sponge Bob Square Pants and stuff. They
have their brotherly squabbles like any other
Jan adds, “Caleb admires Aaron for taking the
chance that he’s taking going so far from home,
and not having family or friends there.”
Aaron hasn’t had any struggles at school.
“He is confident and he has been able to be a
spokesman for himself,” Jan says. “If he needs
something he’s able to find resources to get
help from his neighbors, church or school.”
Neill O’Donnell, 21, has known Aaron since the
fourth grade and the two are best friends.
When O’Donnell switched schools in the fourth
grade, he met Aaron and realized that the two
lived within two blocks of each other.
With time, O’Donnell discovered that Snyder was
a good friend and a great person, both honest
and willing to help people.
“All throughout school we were there for each
other, during family issues and crisis,” he
Aaron makes friends easily because he doesn’t
judge people and gives everyone the benefit of
the doubt, O’ Donnell says.
O’Donnell looks up to his friend.
“If he says he’s going to do something, it’s
going to happen no matter what,” he says.
Passion for music runs deep
“When he was real little I’d set him up on a
stool and he listened to records,” Jan says. “He
liked to watch the records go around.”
It soon became evident that Aaron had an ear for
“I don’t know if it was because of his lack of
mobility, but it was something he could do,” she
says. “He loves to write lyrics to music. That’s
the way he could express his feelings and
Ken echoes Jan’s thoughts, “I’m always amazed at
how well he can write and put his thoughts into
words. He has trouble speaking and being
Aaron has played the bass guitar since he was in
the eighth grade when a friend introduced him to
His music of choice is punk rock music: Plus 44,
Lawrence Arms and Rage Against the Machine.
“There’s so many great things about music,
whatever mood you’re in, depending on that type
of song,” Aaron says. “You just listen to it and
it makes you happy. It makes you feel good about
He wasn’t in band in school or choir, but he did
play in a garage band called The Unwanted.
From those beginnings, Aaron discovered his
passion for producing music.
“The career fits him perfectly,” O’Donnell says.
“He has always been interested in music. He
worked for radio station here.”
O’Donnell participated in Aaron’s love for
“When he was in a band for a while, I helped him
out at shows,” he said. “I took him to other
concerts in Denver when he was in his
In October of 2003, Access 2 ABILITY (now known
as MentorABILITY), gave Aaron the opportunity of
“One of my former teachers told me to call the
director of (Access 2 ABILITY) at the time,
Charlie Barrett,” he said. “I went to Clear
Channel and job shadowed.”Aaron worked there for
two and a half years.
He also did the board operation for the Colorado
“I got bored with that and wanted something more
challenging, so I got the opportunity to run the
board for the live remotes,” he said.
In August of 2005, he was named the executive
producer for a radio program, “Crossroads,” for
the Governor’s Planning Council on Developmental
Michelle Brutsman, the director of Arc for
Laramie County, met Aaron when she was the
coordinator for Access 2 ABILITY.
“I know so many people without disabilities that
don’t try half as hard as he does,” Brutsman
says. “I keep telling him, ‘You’re going to have
this amazing job – Do you remember me now that
you’re famous?’ The people that he’ll meet and
the things he’ll do – wow he’s amazing.”
Brutsman met with Craig Cochran, the general
manager of Clear Channel of Cheyenne and
discussed how Aaron could do more jobs.
Clear Channel has partnered with Access 2
ABILITY since 2003.
“It was great working with Aaron because he had
a great terrific, positive attitude and he
enjoyed challenges,” Cochran said.
Cochran says he was surprised the most by
Aaron’s sense of humor.
“Aaron will be able to do well at whatever he
decides to do well in,” Cochran says. “Because
he has done well in everything we experienced
Cochran adds that Aaron was a strong influence
on other employees because of his courage and
“He accepts the challenges of his life and deals
with them with such a positive attitude that
good things happen to him,” Cochran says.
Brutsman says Aaron’s smile is a constant in
“He’s smiling the whole entire time, and I’ve
never seen him when he’s not happy and smiling,”
Brutsman said.Usually the people that Brutsman
helps don’t know what they need help with or
what they want to do. But that’s not Aaron.
“Aaron wanted more hours, he wanted to work
hard, he wanted to get off Social Security, he
was willing to say, ‘This is what can I do,’”
she says. “I admire that in him. He has been a
good hard worker, a go getter. He has been
A youth filled with surgeries
Aaron has gone through 10 operations in his
“A lot of things happened within the first five
years of my life,” Aaron says. “I don’t remember
For those who do remember it, the times were
“It was tough. Aaron had seven operations the
first year that he was alive,” Ken says. “You
just always are wondering how things are going
to turn out, you know.”
Aaron was born with multiple birth defects.
He has had three surgeries on his eye, three
shunt surgeries, abdominal surgery because his
abdomen was full of scar tissue and surgery on
both legs between the time he was three months
old and 17 years old.
Aaron was born with a rare birth defect in his
right eye, it was underdeveloped and doctors
removed a mass of blood vessels. He now is blind
in that eye.
He has hydrocephalus, and he’s had three shunts
to treat the problem.
“He has moderate cerebral palsy – it affects his
balance and muscle tone,” Jan said. “It also
affects his speech. He has some processing
difficulties, difficulty processing a lot of
His parents aren’t sure why Aaron has cerebral
Aaron was born Cesarean section, as the doctors
were delivering him his lungs filled with
amniotic fluid, breathing was difficult, and he
“A lot of times cerebral palsy is due to a lack
of oxygen,” Jan said. “I’m not sure, though –
it’s just who he is.”
There are three levels of severity with cerebral
palsy ranging from mild to severe.
“He has really used it for the positive, and
that’s exactly what he says, ‘This is who I am.
This is a part of me,’” Jan says.
But Aaron doesn’t stop there.
“It has given him a real desire to be an
advocate for himself and other people with
disabilities,” Jan says. “He understands it. He
wouldn’t change it.”
Two surgeries that were difficult for Aaron were
the ones where he can remember the pain.
The first was his abdominal surgery, which took
place when he was in the eighth grade.
The second took place in August of 2002 when he
He had surgery on his legs to make his feet
straighter. He was in a wheelchair for eight
months after that.
It was an emotional set back for him, Jan said.
“We were hoping to keep him out of a
wheelchair,” Jan says.
At one point, his doctors thought he would
always be wheelchair bound.
But Aaron took oral medication and had Botox
injections in his legs, so he was able to gain
“I went through physical therapy for four or
five months,” Aaron says.
When he got his leg and shoe braces, he walked
on stairs and treadmills to increase his
Aaron was able to walk across the stage for his
senior year graduation in May of 2003.
Now, he doesn’t wear his braces.
“I can walk everywhere,” he says.
You’d never know
O’Donnell says Aaron has been determined through
“They said he’d never walk after a few surgeries
that he had, and he did,” O’Donnell says.
It was just another example of how Aaron refused
to dwell on or be stopped by his circumstances.
When O’Donnell first met Aaron, he noticed
Aaron’s cerebral palsy.
“When we got to be closer friends, I never
thought of it,” he says.
O’Donnell says he knows Aaron will do wonderful
things in life.
“No matter what path in life he takes, he’ll
have a great impact on the people around him
because he is an inspiration of what you can do
if you are determined and put your mind to it,”
For Aaron, it’s a simple choice.
“It’s how I choose to be,” he says. “Life is
better that way, rather than sitting around
complaining, ‘Why me? Why this?’”
In Orlando, Aaron goes to concerts, plays music
and messes with his computer. Of course, he
takes some down time on the sunny Florida
beaches. And he likes to hang out with his
You’d never guess the trials the young man has
gone through to reach this point.
And that’s just the way Aaron would prefer it.
If you would like to contact Aaron
personally please feel free to email him @