For eight years, Ashley Bates-Crowley longed to hear her son say “mama” again. The last time she heard him say it, he was nearly 3 years old, and it was shortly before tubes were placed in his ears.
“Josiah went from talking to not talking,” Bates-Crowley said.
She didn’t understand why her toddler quit speaking. She tried different things – even having the tubes removed from his ears. Things didn’t change. Just before Josiah “Joe” Crowley turned 4, he was diagnosed with nonverbal autism. Three years later, his twin brother, Jeriah, also was diagnosed.
The twins are now 10 years old and attend Quinter Elementary School, Quinter Unified School District 293. Finally, in January 2021, Joe said the word Bates-Crowley has been waiting to hear for so many years – mama.
“There are days that are tough,” she said. “But my children are my gifts. My children are my faith. I got that ‘mama’ back. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Tracie Betz, a special education teacher at Quinter Elementary School, first met the twins when they were 3. Jeriah is considered high-functioning and is in a regular classroom. Joe, while his language continues to grow, is minimally verbal and primarily learns in a special education classroom.
“Josiah is this ray of fun,” Betz said. “He is happy, smiling. He brings this joy to us – he can pull it out of us. Josiah opened my eyes to a whole new world of teaching. I have learned more from him than any other child. There have been some challenges because of the communication barrier. But he’s ready to learn.”
He loves to swing and is part of the track club. Joe enjoys riding his bike, writing and drawing. In fact, his mom has notebooks full of words and phrases Joe has written.
Jeriah also enjoys riding his bike and his hover board, and has participated in football and the school spelling bee – he was a fifth-grade spelling bee finalist.
“They are very close,” Bates-Crowley said of her sons.
They seek each other out after school and spend time playing together whenever they can.
Bates-Crowley and Betz have bonded during the past several years.
“Ashley and I have a great relationship that really facilitates learning for the boys,” Betz said. “I think she is such an advocate for her kids.”
For example, when Bates-Crowley found out after her twins were diagnosed that there weren’t a lot of services in northwest Kansas, she started to seek out services and find out how she could better help her boys. She even started an organization – Team Josiah 2K22 Foundation – to “focus on ensuring all individuals on the ASD spectrum have access to much-needed services and support in northwest Kansas.”
She has worked with the twins’ school to develop a sensory gym where there are numerous items – a tent, bean bag, swing, trampoline, exercise balls and fidget items - that can help calm a child.
“When I first got that diagnosis, I felt lonely,” Bates-Crowley said. “I felt very alone. I had no family close by. Being at Quinter school is one of the reasons I stay. It’s what the boys know. I want to see more inclusions in all communities for all children.”
So, she stays, and she continues to push for more services, more inclusion and more community acceptance.
“Their futures aren’t limited,” Bates-Crowley said of the twins. “I’m going to support them. I’m not going to limit what they can and can’t do. I’m not going to let a diagnosis limit them.”
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