How a Northeast Indiana radio station is creating opportunities for broadcasters with autism

From a young age, Kayden Gordon of Winchendon, Massachusetts, felt like no one truly accepted him for who he was.

He was diagnosed with Autism, but he just wanted to have a normal life and meet friends at school.

Now, as a teenager, Gordon has made a connection in Northeast Indiana that is allowing him to meet new people around the world who share his experiences and helping him use his "disability" as a force for good.

Today, Gordon is the host of "The Kayden Gordon Show: Today’s Best Country Mix" on Spectrum 23.9, a Northeast Indiana-based radio station that is produced by and for people with autism and other disabilitiesGraham (top) and Gordon (bottom) collaborate online to create Spectrum 23.9's programs.

The station's founder, John Graham of Fort Wayne, launched the nonprofit Radio for a Cause in 2011, with a mission to empower individuals with disabilities by teaching them about media, starting with radio broadcasting. Graham works as a producer with ESPN and WOWO in Fort Wayne, and he uses his expertise to help others determine the skills they have and/or need to learn. Then, volunteers shadow Graham on air, and he helps them build their own radio shows based on their favorite music or subjects they find fascinating.

Spectrum 23.9 grew out of Radio for a Cause's work as the first online radio station that allows individuals who are on the Autism spectrum to be on-air. But it wasn't until March 2019 that Gordon discovered Graham's program. Before that, he developed a passion for radio on his own.

In the early part of 2018, Gordon started listening to the radio more often, specifically country music stations, since that's what he enjoyed growing up. One of his favorites was Country 102.5, an FM country station in Boston.

Once Gordon started listening to 102.5 ‘s midday personality, Carolyn Kruse, and afternoon personality, Jackson Blue, he wanted to know what it was like to become an actual DJ. While researching, he came across a Facebook radio station group that helped him discover different online radio stations looking for volunteers to do live or syndicated shows.

Gordon's at-home setup to create his radio programs.

When Gordon reached out to the stations, they loved what he was doing so they gave him a chance to be on the air, and he developed "The Kayden Gordon Show." As he built his personal portfolio, Gordon was promoting his Facebook and Instagram page in March 2020 when he made the connection to Spectrum 23.9. After a few weeks, he began collaborating with Graham, asking him for help with the audio in his programs. Before long, Gordon was volunteering his time virtually with Spectrum 23.9 to do a live and syndicated show on their station.

Gordon says that he cares deeply about Graham's mission, considering his own journey with autism, and so far, his show has been a success with sponsors, fans, and collaborators at Spectrum 23.9 alike.

In 2019, Graham asked if Gordon would be interested in working for them on a regular basis, and he accepted. For his first three months on-air, Gordon was playing a variety mix for "The Kayden Gordon Show." Then in January 2020, he found that his fans really enjoyed the country music he was playing, so he decided to start playing country music exclusively on January 16.

“I'm really glad I switched my genre to country because that’s what the fans wanted, and it has helped bring in more listeners,” Gordon says.

Gordon hosts "The Kayden Gordon Show."

The new slogan for "The Kayden Gordon Show" is "Today’s Best Country Mix," offering all different country music, including favorites like Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, and Sam Hunt. Gordon recently started adding interviews into the show, too.

Since January, he has interviewed a variety of country musicians across the U.S., including local musicians, like Russ Stallons of Kentucky and Neil Dover of Alabama. He has also interviewed Broadway stars like, Young Elsa, and Our Dear Dead Drug Lord's actress, Winter Donnelly, and her brother Miles. Miles studied biology at the University of Chicago and studied Biology, but ended up creating his own band with his sister, called The Muo Duo Band. Their first single "Digital Island Resort" was released in June.

People can listen to Gordon's interviews on the “How To Listen” page of his website.

In Indiana, Gordon has interviewed with an Indianapolis local artist, Kathy Bell, who wrote the lyrics "America She’s Crying" with Bob McGilpin as the lead singer.

“Kayden plays the best country mix around!” Bell says.

Gordon interviews country musicians for his show.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world are spreading the word about "The Kayden Gordon Show," and many have reached out to Gordon, asking him to play their music, or asking him to host his live or syndicated show at their station. On average, the Kayden Gordon Show gets anywhere between 10 to 60 listeners almost every time he goes on the air.

“'The Kayden Gordon Show' is definitely still in the process of growing, but I am working very hard on promoting and doing things to entertain my listeners,” Gordon says.

Since launching his country music program, Gordon has been seeking sponsors to help his show pay for equipment from Sweewater in Fort Wayne and other necessities to keep the program going. So far, he's found a few sponsors across the U.S. who share his passion for country music and his mission.

In addition to sponsors, Gordon enjoys helping the staff at Spectrum 23.9 as they launch new programs, like the Under Age Training Program, which teaches people under the age of 18 what it is like to become a DJ. This program will go live at two new locations in 2020: Friendship Circle in Michigan for FC Goes Virtual with director Karrah Waganat and The Saint Francis Jesters Program in Fort Wayne with director Allison Ballard.

With all the success Gordon has had, he hopes to keep growing his presence on more online radio stations within the next six months, as well as expanding his community of sponsors and the number of country singers and artists he interviews.

Ultimately, he hopes to continue to work with Graham in starting up their second online radio station fully dedicated to country music and find a job at a radio station in the Boston area.

"I would love to get my foot in the door wherever my path might take me,” Gordon says.

Learn more

To learn more about advertising or interviewing with the "The Kayden Gordon Show," email Gordon at [email protected] or call 978-958-0551. To hear interviews and learn more about Gordon's show, visit his website at
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