ORANGE >> Before starting at ASD Fitness, Nick Keating, 16, spent all his spare time in his room playing video games.

Now the West Haven teen, who is on the autism spectrum, is building muscles, confidence, taking two-hour walks, and to his mother’s amazement, even talking to people he meets in public.

He’s also gained much-needed male role models, said his mother, Debbie Keating.

“It’s really changed Nick’s life, he’s like a different person,” Keating said of ASD Fitness. “It’s a wonderful experience they’ve given my son.”

ASD Fitness specializes in working with people on the autism spectrum and with other special needs, and Keating will tell of Nick’s transformation at an upcoming fundraiser for the center’s charity arm, as Nick is one of numerous scholarship recipients.

The wine and beer tasting to benefit the Bethany Leapley ASD Scholarship Fund will be held at 7 p.m. April 22 at St. Barbara’s Church, 480 Racebrook Road.

Tickets are $100 each, $725 for a table of eight and $900 for a table of 10. The night will include live music and a silent auction.

To purchase tickets, visit or send a check payable to Bethany Leapley ASD Scholarship Fund, Bethany Luna, 17 Cannonball Road, North Haven 06473.

Dedra Leapley, whose husband, Adam Leapley, founded ASD Fitness to give his own son with autism the opportunity to be a trainer, said it was always part of the vision to make the specialized gym available to those in need.

The custom-designed facility at 307 Racebrook Road even has lighting and colors to make it more comfortable for those on the spectrum.

Keating, a single mother with three other children, all girls, was paying for the gym at first, but couldn’t continue because of finances, so Nick was given one of many scholarships.

The gym is tucked in the back of a storefront. It is equipped with trainers who have special-education backgrounds so they can work with individualized needs.

But the place and its workers are so much more, Dedra Leapley said, because there are free social and holiday events, get-togethers and lectures by experts, which are open to the public.

They also hold a Sensitive Santa event at Christmas, movie nights and cookie decorating.

People on the spectrum face social challenges, and so it is a workout in more than the physical.

“We want to give the chance for kids to form relationships,” Leapley said. “We’re trying to be a resource.”

Stephanie Bryant of Hamden, whose son, Maurice, 8, receives a scholarship, said his balance has improved since training at ASD, and he’s more outgoing, and so more able to communicate with his friends.

Bryant said she’s “extremely thankful” for the scholarship.

“I’m a single mom, not working, so the scholarship came right on time,” she said.