About Us

Michelle Harris

CEO/Lead Advocate

My name is Michelle and I am the mom of surviving quadruplets. I had the quadruplets by pPROM at 26 weeks 6 days. Margaret (baby A) was born first at 1 lb 9 oz, James (baby B) 2 lb 4 oz, Martha (baby C) 2 lb 2oz, Joseph (baby D) 1 lb 8 oz.  Sadly, our daughter Martha passed away in my arms a mere 14 hours after she was born.  The other babies survived but were affected by their premature birth.

Margaret has been diagnosed as having Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) with Diffuse White Matter Brain Injury (Showing Pre- and Post-Birth Hypoxia), Hypotonia, and Mild Cerebral Palsy

James has been diagnosed as having High-functioning Autism (Asperger), Hypotonia, and ADHD.

Joseph has moderate developmental and intellectual delays but none of the specialists can really explain why beyond citing his premature birth and very low birth weight. He has multiple diagnoses since there is no ONE diagnosis that seems to cover everything.  He has been diagnosed with Autism, Developmentally delayed with Hypotonia, Cerebral Palsy (though there is no evident brain damage yet he presents like he has Ataxic CP), Tracheomalacia, Failure To Thrive, Sensory Processing Disorder, Ataxia (motor coordination and planning issues), Dysphagia (feeding issues), Blindness (Right Eye), Intellectual Disability, and possible Mitochondrial disease.  Joseph had whole-exome sequencing and there was little in the way of answers. We will continue to search for a diagnosis.

The birth and medical history of the children is very complicated. It forced me to research everything the doctors were telling me. The more they told me, the more questions I had. As I gained knowledge, I needed a place to store the information that I was gathering. I began to create blog posts as a way to organize my thoughts. My original blog contains more of my personal life, the trials of dealing with an uncooperative husband, and my feelings about doctors and more recently the school systems.

As my children got older and became school-aged, I realized the need to learn about education law and anything I could about special education. I joined a Facebook group and asked questions and continued to do my research and write blog posts. As time moved on, I created my own group. As my group membership grew, I realized the tremendous need for affordable special education advice and advocacy.

After attending various special needs and homeschooling conferences, I was disappointed to find no conference for families who were attempting to educate their child with special needs at home using ESA. I was determined to create a conference dedicated to families of children with special needs who choose to homeschool using ESA funds.  Even though I educate my children from home, because I use ESA funds, my children are not legally homeschooled. However, I believe if a person is educating a child at home, that person is a homeschooler.

Upon further reflection and discussion with my husband, I realized that I could do so much more than provide a yearly conference to special needs families.  This was the beginning of the formation of Arizona Exceptional Students Association.

With the wild success of Arizona Exceptional Students Association, we came to realize we needed to change the non-profit’s name to match the scale of our national group on Facebook so we are now known as American Exceptional Students Association.

I hope the site and the blog are of service to you. I write the way I speak. The information may be presented in a conversational manner, but the research is sound and I stand by every statement I make. I have never fancied myself a writer although my husband says I write very well, and he should know; he is an English teacher and my editor.  🙂 

John Harris

COO/Chairman of the Board

John Harris is the Chief Operating Officer and Chairman of the Board but his day job is a middle school teacher. He teaches English and Social Studies to a great group of 6th graders and has a Masters Degree in Education with an emphasis on Administration and Supervision. He has been teaching for 20 years but did not really begin to see the complexity of special education until his children were born. After hearing the trials and troubles his wife was experiencing, he began to listen to her and work harder for the kids in his classes. Now, he is a dedicated special education advocate and often frustrates his coworkers with his knowledge of special education procedure. He is a devoted follower of Christ and hopes to show his faith in everything he does. 

How We’re Helping

AESA is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit [83-2054691] dedicated to the students who are “outside the (bell) curve”. Whether delayed or gifted, exceptional students need support beyond that of neurotypical children. We are an organization focused on providing resources and training to parents of exceptional children. 

We also provide free educational advocacy to exceptional children in the public school system in our Facebook group at IEP assistance and Special Needs Parenting Advice.  We also run a FB group [Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids] for those that have a serious interest, or are ready, to start homeschooling.

Get Involved

Are you passionate about education? Let us know! We are always looking for volunteers to help us make our vision a reality. We’ll help you find a way to volunteer that best suits you. We’re excited to have you join the team!

THANK YOU

Whether you help through monetary donations, volunteering your time, or spreading our mission through word-of-mouth, thank you. We couldn’t accomplish our goals without the help of supporters like you.