Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Asher Effect

I first met Asher when his mom came with her thick notebook, professional dress, and can-do attitude for a meeting.  Asher was new in our class.  It  was kindergarten and she came to introduce herself to her son's new kinder teachers, Randi Timmons and Tracy Ruark.  I was the Special Education teacher.  We knew, of course, that Asher was a child with autism because his mom, Tia, had made sure that we had the facts before he came the first day.  I asked Randi what she remembered about Tia in that first meeting, and she said it better than I ever could.... "I remember her depth of knowledge, appreciation, and awareness of how gifted her son was.  I remember her aura that demanded respect, not in a prideful way, but in a mama bear sort of  way.  It was obvious from the very beginning that she would settle for nothing less than our very best and that she had a non-smothering kind of love for her child.  And he loved his momma.  He always knew that she was his biggest fan."

Tia was also very astute in dealing with teachers.  She never threatened, but we definitely knew that she had great expectations for us and our relationship with her son.  She was also always willing to do her part.  We also knew that she knew the law, although she never actually said it, and that she would fight for him if she had to.  She never had to...  It's quite a balancing act of respecting and appreciating teachers and yet making sure that your child's needs are met, and she walked that line better than any parent I have ever worked with.

When I asked Randi what she remembered about Asher that first year she said the thing that first struck her was that when you looked into Asher's eyes, it was as if it was a window into his soul.   She remembered his crooked little smile, and how silly and quietly funny he was.  He was such a jokester with a dry, spot-on type of humor. I won't lie - those first few weeks were a little rough. Change is never easy and often difficult for children with autism.  Asher self- stimmed with his fingers in front of his eyes when he had had all he could take of us and just needed a break from all the commotion... but then he would answer a question in the middle of instruction and we would be blown away. No way he was paying attention!  He engaged in ways that both surprised and amazed us.  He had "meltdowns" when he got overwhelmed, but he also became a class favorite and never left a day without making us smile.

Asher, 1st grader, has always been a class favorite.
We knew from the beginning that Asher needed additional services in social skills so we suggested an outside agency.  Mom went right to work and Cliff arrived.  Cliff is an enlightened therapist that often came into the classroom to observe.  He took our suggestions and often offered suggestions of his own that worked for him in his small groups with Asher at the Center.  We have been so fortunate that Cliff has remained with Asher for all of these elementary years.  He is that extra piece that makes such a difference in it all working together.

Asher, 2nd grader
As time went on, Asher flourished in so many ways.  Tia checked in regularly and made sure that all was right in Asher's world.  She was always just a phone call away.  He knew it and we knew it.  Her questions and suggestions were always helpful and spot-on.  Her genuine concern for Asher and for the other students in the class was always so real and so heartfelt.  She never had unreasonable expectations and she was always willing to follow through with your suggestions for Asher.  There was a respect between us that always made us feel like we had a true partnership. At the end of first grade Asher was selected as the "Soaring Eagle," the child in that final nine weeks who has made the most gain.  He was a popular, unanimous choice by teachers and students. 
Asher, the 3rd grade jokester, has a contagious laugh.
Asher is now a 4th grader and his adorable little sister, Ava, has joined our Chets Creek family.  The thing about Asher that I was totally unprepared for was how much I would fall in love with him.  There is just something about him that just grabs your heart and won't let go.  There is something about Tia's faith and tenacity that attracts and mesmerizes you, so when she decided to start a foundation "For Asher's Sake" as a way to give back, all of those of us that have been touched by Asher wanted to get involved.  Tia didn't ask us to buy shirts to support Asher.  We asked her if she would have shirts made for us to buy so that we could show our support for Asher and for her efforts.  We believe in her and we believe that she has the unique experience and attitude to make a real difference in the autism community, in the lives of families with autistic members, and in life, in general.

I have no idea what Asher's future will hold, but I don't worry about him like I do so many of my other students, because Tia will make sure that this story has a happy ending.    There is no question that each of us is better for having known Asher .  It's simply a love story...
Asher today with his delightful and committed family.


Prophet Dwann Rollinson said...

Love, love, love this thorough account. Tia, Asher and Ava are a blessing to our church family THE WORSHIP PLACE as well.

Dwann Rollinson

Anonymous said...

what a beautiful story. it takes a Village and that is what you all have created:-)

Beckee Price said...

I'm so blessed to have him in my class. As much as I may teach him this year, he has already taught me so much more.