Teenager with Developmental Delays, Dyslexia, ADHD Takes Matters into his own Hands to Pay for CrossFit Fees

March 27, 2022 by
Photo Credit: Eric Castro
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Kim Mixon was gutted to see how upset her 15-year-old son was when his first CrossFit coach left Gun Barrel CrossFit in Gun Barrel City, TX to start her own gym.

  • “He was very upset because he really liked her and had a little crush on her I think too,” Mixon said of her son DJ Stephens, who is developmentally delayed (DD) and suffers from dyslexia and ADHD. And when he found CrossFit two years ago he took an immediate liking to it.

So Mixon decided it was best to follow his first trainer to her new gym, but soon found out the trainer didn’t think she would be able to keep training Stephens because of his various disabilities.

Knowing how much her son had been enjoying CrossFit, Mixon then approached Gun Barrel CrossFit owner Eric Castro to see what he thought about training her son. 

Castro didn’t hesitate to accept Stephens with open arms. “We’ll work with him. He’s a good kid,” Mixon said of Castro’s reply. 

What Happened Next

Under Castro and the other coaches at the gym, DJ started seeing quick gains, largely thanks to their patience, Mixon said.

  • “If he doesn’t understand something, the trainer will go and pull him to the side and help him figure out how to do it…and if he still doesn’t get it they will work with him more,” she said. 
  • “He has grown so much physically and mentally and just in so many different ways. It has also helped with his ADHD very much.”

All was going well until Mixon became sick and wasn’t able to work, let alone pay for her son’s CrossFit fees.

That’s when 15-year-old Stephens took matters into his own hands.

  • “DJ decided he wanted to start his own little business working around our RV park,” Mixon said. Unfortunately that plan fell through as Stephens needed to be 16 for them to hire him. 

Stephens didn’t give up.

He started asking people he knew, including members at the gym, if he could do odd jobs for them, from yard work—digging holes, raking leaves and mowing lawns—to walking dogs to taking out their trash.

“Little by little,” Stephens found small jobs, which have been helping him pay for his own CrossFit membership. 

  • “It’s just kind of hard for him with his ADHD, but he does try. You just have to watch him and he does a really good job. You just have to remind him, ‘OK DJ, you’re working buddy,’” Mixon said. 

From a coaching perspective, Castro said it has been a pleasure working with Stephens.

  • “He is always very attentive and ready to learn. His attitude is wonderful…He is always concerned about how everyone is doing. He will make it a point to ask everyone how their day was,” Castro said.

He added: “He is one of us and considered family.”

Photo Credit: Eric Castro

Stephens and the CrossFit Open

Some especially big growing moments have happened during the CrossFit Open both this year and last, Mixon said. 

Last year, Stephens signed up for the Open without being able to do a pull-up, and when pull-ups showed up “he got really upset to the point he wanted to quit and cry,” Mixon said.

But the coaches “just kept encouraging him,” she said, adding that one coach stopped what she was doing and walked over to Stephens to “to push through.”

Stephens ended up getting his first pull-up during the Open last year, and today he can do five, Mixon boasted, adding that he can also deadlift 230 pounds and clean and jerk 110 pounds.

  • “Just because of people encouraging him. He has grown so much it’s not even funny,” she said. 

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