A little boy from Keene, south of Fort Worth, is a darling of social media right now after his kindergarten teacher posted video of him rocking the morning routine at school.
The video shows 5-year-old Asher Bales standing outside his classroom at Keene Elementary School making eye contact, shaking hands or giving hugs to everyone in his class and greeting each one by name.
"I tell them to use their big teacher voice so people can hear them saying something nice to them, to make them feel good so that when they step through our door, they're off to a good start," explained teacher Ashley Taylor.
"I have videoed everyone of my kids being the greeter for my families, but something that day, it showed his growth," said Taylor.
She's had interview requests from coast to coast.[[484198371,C]]
"I was talking to my family and it's crazy how big this gotten, and it's just the video. Nobody knows about him or any of the background behind it," said Taylor. "They just think, 'Oh, that's a little bitty kid'; that's (what he did in the video) huge for the amount of time I had with him."
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To appreciate the moment, you have to know what Asher was like back in August when he started his first year of school.
"When he came, he didn't want to be touched. And he didn't like people near him. He wanted his space and to do his own thing," said Taylor.
"We were worried it wasn't going to be easy for him," said Stacy Bales, Asher's mom. "A while back, he started speech therapy at our house, because he was almost five and not talking at all. They (therapists) were worried about that. And, he didn't run very well; some things a normal 4- and 5-year-old should be able to do."
Asher had been diagnosed with neurofibromitosis, NF1. It's a neurological disorder characterized by multiple light brown spots on the skin that resemble birthmarks, freckling in the armpits, small benign growths under the skin, occasional tumors in the brain and extremities, and learning challenges in some patients.
Bales, a married mother of three, said a genetic specialist told her she, too, shared the condition.
"He (Asher) actually got it from me." she said. "I have a lot (birthmarks), too, but I was never diagnosed. I never knew it was passed down, but he's the only person in my life who I've ever seen with all the birthmarks."
As for any tumors, "an MRI spotted findings on his brain, but nothing to worry about now," said Bales. Asher will get an MRI once a year to monitor the illness.
The bigger challenge as Asher started kindergarten was how to connect him to school and his classmates.
"He had lots of verbal barriers when he first came," said Taylor, a teacher with 18 years experience. Yet, within the first few weeks, she'd cracked the code in figuring how to connect with Asher.
He found out her dog's name is Optimus Prime.
"That's his big deal," said Bales. "That's all he talks about all the time. He'll run around make Transformer noises and transform himself."
Optimus Prime, the fictional robot superhero character from Transformers, was the breakthrough Taylor needed.
"Transformers is huge to him. Like the second week of school, I decided we need Transformer activities," said Taylor, whose assistant principal husband is a huge Transformers fans from back in the 80s.
The world of Transformers connected Asher to math and the lessons he needed to get through kindergarten. With time, trust and routine, the boy who didn't talk and wanted to be to himself transformed into the confident student with a personality to match.
"He brings a lot of happiness to our classroom," said Taylor. "He's very compassionate."
"Now he writes on his own. He takes multiple step instruction. He speaks to everybody. At the beginning of the year, one of the goals was to speak in a complete sentence because he would just shoot out words," said Taylor.
So, when Asher stepped up to be the classroom greeter that day, Taylor saw a child who reminded her why she teaches - to make a difference.
"He had lots of verbal barriers when he first came," she said.
Yet, in the video, is a little boy who can speak and recall every friend's name right off the top of his head, and smile at 'em and say 'good morning' and pat 'em on the back, that was huge to me," Taylor said.
"Nobody sees what we do every day, and I thought that's something we need to share."
"I cried like a baby when I first saw it (the video) 'cuz like she said it was such a big deal for him to let those other kids hug him," said Bales. "At first if he didn't want to be touched, he didn't want to be touched. Now, he's a lot more collected and willingly goes and gives hugs."
Asher graduated from kindergarten Wednesday, and mom and teacher know as he transitions to first grade in the fall the lessons from Mrs. Taylor will go with him.
"The things she's done, he's just accomplished so much and we've very proud," said Bales.