INDEPENDENCE — If there’s one thing that has driven Trent Nash throughout his life it’s this: He’s not going to back away from a challenge.
“I like to push myself every day,” he said.
Trent, a junior, joined Central’s swim team for the first time this winter.
A student participating in a sport may not seem like a momentous occasion, but for Trent, it was the latest example that he won’t be defined by setbacks.
When Trent was born, everything seemed to go according to plan.
“Trent was born an almost perfect baby according to his nurse of more than 30 years,” Tammy Nash, Trent’s mother, said. “She stated that she gave him the highest APGAR score of her career.”
But Tammy began noticing things — including differences in his demeanor and strength compared to his four older siblings.
“At 6 months of age, I knew for certain there was something just not right,” Tammy said.
Getting Trent evaluated proved difficult.
The family communicated with specialists nationwide, but was told Trent was too young to be evaluated.
When he was 3, Trent was seen by a behavioral specialist in Portland who diagnosed him with being on the Autistic Spectrum. He also developed a seizure disorder, Complex Partial Seizures.
Trent attended preschool, but was behind the developmental skills other students had.
“We were working with speech therapists and a developmental and behavioral specialist at Easter Seals,” Tammy said. “He couldn’t push his tongue against a tongue depressor, move his tongue in the proper placement to make the correct sounds to pronounce the simplest of words. He couldn’t suck up on a straw or even blow a cotton ball a mere inch.”
Physical activity was also difficult.
“Trent was unable to do any cross-body movements,” Tammy said. “For example, when writing, he would switch hands mid paper, unable to continue across the body. He could not get both sides of his body to move in a fluid motion together. … Until he was in double digits, he couldn’t sit up on his own. He’d roll to his side and push himself up.”
Among the other challenges included taking everything literally and assuming accidents, such as bumping into him, were done on purpose.
Trent was taken out of school after his second attempt at kindergarten due to having multiple seizures during the day and a lack of advancement. Tammy taught Trent through fourth grade, reducing by about half the years he was behind, she said.
After fourth grade, Trent was placed on an Individualized Education Plan. Despite significant progress being made both socially and academically, even some of those who interacted with Trent doubted what he could do.
“One of his teachers said Trent would never get a regular high school degree, let alone be able to attend college,” Tammy said. “I demanded, ‘Don’t you dare count my son out.’”
Trent, one of six children, watched his older siblings find success in the classroom and athletically.
Trent didn’t listen to his doubters. Instead, he became motivated to achieve.
“He never took no for an answer,” Tammy said.
Trent began to work out in a home gym and build core strength.
As a freshman, he joined the track and field team, competing in the shot put and discus.
This winter, he’s added the swim team to his schedule.
“I get to meet new people, stay active and have fun,” Trent said.
Trent swims the freestyle and butterfly and is inspiring others with his journey.
“He’s a hard worker,” coach Jeanine Holstad said. “He doesn’t try to take shortcuts. He’s there to do the best he can and wants to learn. I think that rubs off on other swimmers.”
Just as — if not more — important as the physical benefits is the chance to interact with other students.
“We watch him and just smile because he’s over there talking to other students he would have never been able to talk to in years prior,” Tammy said. “He’s laughing and having fun and it builds his confidence.”
Academically, Trent approached his parents about taking himself off his IEP and pursuing a normal diploma.
“His dad was like, ‘OK that sounds good,’” Tammy said. “As a mom, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is scary.’”
Trent hasn’t disappointed.
“He’s got all his grades and is in line for his high school diploma,” Tammy said.
Trent also has his eyes set on college to become a forensic scientist.
“My family has all been scientists,” Trent said. “It’s my turn now.”
With each success, Trent is proving to be an inspiration to everyone around him.
“Every day is challenging,” Tammy said. “But he lives with a spirt that outshines us all. He’s very loving, thoughtful, hardworking and just plain amazing.”