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Realizing Potential: Kenian’s Individual Potential Shines Bright at ACCESS Academy

Story by B.D. Tiner

My daughter, Kenian Tiner, grappled with challenges in public schools from an early age. Diagnosed with ADHD at four, she later faced a severe anxiety disorder and autism spectrum disorder. As divorced parents, Kenian lived with her mom in Missouri during the week and spent weekends with me in Arkansas. Despite the geographical split, our unwavering priority was to do whatever it takes to get Kenian the help she needs.

For years, Kenian’s mom Kandice fought tirelessly to secure the appropriate help and accommodations for her struggles in public school. Unfortunately, the school system either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide what she needed. From kindergarten through eighth grade, Kenian bounced between three different schools, experiencing severe bullying at each one. Kandice even tried homeschooling for a semester, but that proved not to be a solution.

In 2019, I reconnected with an old friend, Melissa Thomas, Director of Clinical Operations at ACCESS. Recognizing what Kenian needed and understanding that public school wasn’t meeting those needs, she encouraged us to explore ACCESS. During Christmas break that year, Kenian underwent comprehensive evaluations at the ACCESS Evaluation and Resource Center (AERC).

The psychoeducational evaluation at AERC, led by Kimberly Newton, turned out to be a turning point. Reviewing Kenian’s medications, Kim helped us determine a simple change in administration time—switching from morning to evening. This seemingly small adjustment allowed Kenian to complete her school day without constant drowsiness, a breakthrough that had eluded other professionals.

Encouraged by our experience with the AERC, Kenian and I toured the ACCESS Academy and talked extensively with Cheri Stevenson, Director of Academy, about how the school might be a fit for Kenian. Meeting Upper School educators Mr. George and Mr. Andrew, we were immediately drawn to the Academy and what it had to offer. Despite Kandice never seeing the campus, she trusted our judgement and our shared desire to do what was best for our daughter, allowing Kenian to move to Arkansas and enroll in ACCESS.

Upon entering ACCESS, Kenian qualified for extensive therapies, receiving seven hours per week. Thanks to the integrated approach and expert therapy team, including in-class interactions, she made rapid strides. Occupational and physical therapies became unnecessary, and speech therapy reduced to two hours per week. Kenian’s mental health journey at ACCESS was equally transformative. With psychiatry support and targeted therapy, her medication needs decreased significantly.

The progress Kenian has made at ACCESS is nothing short of astonishing. Unlike traditional schools, ACCESS Academy allows students to remain in a class for multiple years, fostering a deep understanding of each student’s needs. Kenian’s success was propelled by the collaborative approach at ACCESS, where everything from academics to therapies is under one roof.

The newfound confidence Kenian gained at ACCESS was evident when she became a class representative within her first month—an unthinkable feat in her previous schools. The nurturing environment and low student-to-staff ratio allowed her to transition from the shadows to the spotlight.

Beyond academics and therapy, ACCESS provided vocational training, Special Olympics, and practical life skills education. "From a mere search for a supportive school, our family found a village at ACCESS—a dedicated community of educators, therapists, evaluators, and mental health experts who not only understand but genuinely love what they do."

The school’s commitment to individualized plans and its team approach, where educators, therapists, and mental health experts work seamlessly, have proven to be the key ingredients of Kenian’s success. Unlike her previous schools, ACCESS wasn’t just an educational institution; it became a beacon of hope and transformation.

In a world where education can sometimes feel like a one-size-fits-all endeavor, Kenian’s journey at ACCESS underscores the importance of recognizing and celebrating the uniqueness of each student.