11/25/12 — Parents, teachers know how much good school has done and can continue to do

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Parents, teachers know how much good school has done and can continue to do

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 25, 2012 1:50 AM

PIKEVILLE -- Wendi Amory fights back tears as she talks about the progress her 10-year-old son has made since enrolling at The Asperger Connection when it opened in August 2011.

Joshua was diagnosed with the disorder at age 3, she said. She can rattle off how he learns and what works in teaching him.

But she is not a teacher, and recognizes for a child with Asperger's, school goes beyond the academics -- it's the socialization.

"It's not just about meeting the needs of the children educationally, but it's about meeting the needs of them emotionally," she said.

Her son had a lot of behavioral problems early on, she said, but since coming to the special school, has made progress.

"He's calmer. He's more receptive," she said. "The conversational skills have increased, his social interaction, his appropriate interaction. He's improving. He's happy. He loves it here."

Which is why she is so heartbroken over the possibility of having to put him back into a school that might not be equipped to focus on those aspects of his development.

The past 15 months of turmoil at The Asperger Connection -- less to do with the curriculum and more to do with finances -- have taken a toll on Ms. Amory and others wanting to support its mission of serving students with Asperger's.

On Tuesday afternoon, she was helping out when parents came to pick up their children. She should have been in class herself.

The nursing student is within six months of receiving her nursing degree, she said, so this is a particularly busy time. But her child's well-being took precedence, she said.

"I have sacrificed everything to have him here," she said. "I was willing to drop out and do what it took. I did not go to clinical today because I was needed here."

Angela Ayers, a single mother of three, was a teacher at the school from January until October. She is among the loyal, but unpaid, teachers hired by Nancy Black, the school's owner.

"She paid me some, but she still owes me some," she said.

Ms. Ayers' fifth-grade son was also a student at the school.

"He's the main reason I stayed," she explained. "He was getting bullied from kindergarten to fourth grade. Now he's like, 'I have to go to school."

His teacher is Tonya Clark, whom Ms. Ayers can't praise enough.

"Tonya has gone above and beyond," she said. "It's amazing her dedication."

Ms. Ayers' aunt, Debbie Outland, who also worked briefly at the school, said there is a faithful group who still wants to see the school succeed.

"We believe in it enough. We have seen what it's doing for these children," she said. "I'm a 30-year retired special education teacher. It was always my mission in life and now it has become my new mission, and I will volunteer my time, whatever is necessary, to go forward and do whatever's necessary."