|“The Birth of Ascent ”
by Lydia Flynn
When I walk through the halls and classrooms of Ascent, I see happy faces, proud faces, diligent faces. I see the faces of children that were once lost and are now found. They are being taught to understand and interact appropriately with their environment rather than shun and fear what was once the unknown. It all sounds so simple and neat and easy...the children of Ascent are being taught to understand and interact with their environment. Effectively teaching children with autism basic life and academic skills is a highly specialized, infinitely complex and exceedingly challenging task. Rather than scratch the surface of the needs of children with autism, the Ascent school lives up to its name by raising children to the heights of their highest potential.
When I walk through the halls and classrooms of Ascent, I feel the exhilaration of accomplishment, but I also remember the inspiration and the impetus that motivated myself and seven other families to undertake the mission of starting a brand new, model school for children with autism. I remember what it was like for my son NOT to be in a program like Ascent… Precious time was ticking away waiting and hoping for an opening in an appropriate school.. The anxiety of knowing that my son could not access the highly effective treatment found in many intensive programs mounted daily. Rejection letters crushed my hopes while my son slipped further and further into autism’s dark hold. I remember choking on my food, not able to swallow and not able to taste. I remember countless hours researching autism and the science of applied behavior analysis through exhaustion and numbness. I remember driving in my car with my eyes filling uncontrollably, pulling over to clear them so that I could see. I remember a single though surfacing over and over again: it would be much easier to start a school than to bear the pain of watching my son suffer a continuous free-falling plummet, the bottom of which I could not dare to consider.
Eight families brought together by fate? By chance? By the grace of God. Eight families drawn to each other because of their passion, drive and desperation to give their child the life support that is so desperately needed by children with autism –an intensive, model ABA education program. We borrowed money, sold assets, and sacrificed two years of our lives to fight for the birth of Ascent. When we walk through the halls and classrooms of Ascent, we know that we have done something good.
If you walk through the Ascent school, you can peek in and see its legacy sitting in her office working on some infrastructure of the school, or you may find her in one of the classrooms completely focused on a student. She is Ascent’s first employee, she is the Executive Director, and she is the reason that Ascent is a school and not an idea or a dream. She is Dr. Nancy Shamow, the engine, the intellect and the brawn of its inception and continuity. We thank you, Dr. Shamow, for dedicating your life to the mission of providing intensive, research-based education and life-enhancing services to individuals with autism. We thank you for being the Ascent bird that carries our children to safer ground.
The families of Ascent owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have helped nudge this school into a reality. You have forever changed our lives and the lives of our children in a profoundly positive direction.
Dr. Martin Kozloff for his guidance.
Linda Meyer from Alpine Learning Group for her guidance.
George Shebitz, Esq., Mel Miller, Jane Ryan, CPA.
Randy Horowitz from Genesis School and Joanne Gerenser from Eden II.
Alvin Perlin, Al Eskanazy and the entire Ascent Board of Trustees
Jerry Murphy, Esq., Honorable Alphonse D’Amato and Senator Skelos
To the Ascent teachers for every second that you spend motivating our children to learn. To Yvonne McCabe for believing in our mission and for trusting our integrity enough to leave a secure job to become the first Ascent teacher while it was still an idea on a piece of paper.
To all of the school districts who supported us, and had faith in our mission.
To family and friends who have stood by our sides and supported us in this endeavor.