Ms. Ashley’s Story

When I was almost 5 years old, I became a big sister. Shawn came early though, and he was born at 28-weeks weighing only 2 pounds and 1 ounce. At the time I didn't understand how concerning of a sentence that was, let alone why I couldn't see my mom or my brother for the longest time after I found out he was born. I discovered after the fact that Shawn had a severe brain bleed due to oxygen deprivation that destroyed parts of his brain and he needed to be delivered via an emergency C section or he and my mom would die. He was diagnosed officially with Hydrocephalus which meant a build up of excess fluid in the brain, and he didn't come home after he was born because he needed 7 brain surgeries before he was 3 months old to insert and fix his VP shunt that seemed to continue failing. The doctors told us that he would never walk or talk due to the extensive brain damage, and that he would have significant cognitive delays.

We called him our little miracle baby however, because he went on to walk just about when he was developmentally supposed to, and talk with his own little language until his speech developed as well. This February of 2019, Shawn will be 20 years old and cognitively function around a 3 to 8 year old level depending on the skillset, and he has brought so much joy to mine and my family's lives being the most stubborn, loving, sassy, epic basketball player we've been privileged to know and love.

Shawn, being such an important part of my life, shaped how I viewed the world and I realized early on that I wanted to be an advocate and educator in any way I could by working with those with special needs. I especially wanted to be around children because of my experience viewing Shawn grow tremendously from his early intervention services. I saw first hand how early childhood education can impact the life of just one little person, and knew if Shawn could benefit from in home therapies but had limited inclusive setting exposure until he was older, what amazing benefits could come from an inclusive early childhood preschool? Additionally, I grew to believe that any person who was a sibling, peer, friend, or classmate of someone with any disability immediately had a unique perspective to viewing the world with more compassion and sympathy for others traditionally perceived as different, and I loved seeing it happen.

I began working at the Rise School of Denver almost by a bunch of little accidents coming together to put me in the right place at the right time, and I'm so grateful to be at such an amazing school. Every day I'm able to see children with and without needs play, talk, and interact with one another in such positive ways, and watch all of them learn and grow from one another.

I've seen wonderful things like a nonverbal little boy used the sign for 'book' with me, unprompted, to have me read with him as he plopped into my lap. I've seen a typically developed child walk up to a child with needs, ask him to play and took his hand to bring him along. Just this week, I saw a child with needs who walks with assistance take 12 independent steps on his own for the first time.

The Rise School is a special place that fosters these beautiful little and big moments throughout each day because of it being an inclusive setting. With the trained therapists, educated teachers and staff, the quality that this school is able to provide to its students is amazing and I only wish my brother could have had a school like this one when he was little. I'm so glad to be a part of such a strong team of individuals that help shape the lives of so many wonderful little people, and hopefully you will consider giving any donation so even more families can continue to see their babies succeed. ←Back to Support Rise

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