Children's needs drive Mrs. AchreBy Erin Remai
Herald Staff Writer
Judy Achre's children always ask her what they should tell people she does.
"They say, 'Everyone else's mother has a 9-to-5 job. What do you do?' I say, tell them I'm a professional volunteer," Mrs. Achre said.
As the executive director of the Mercer County Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, Mrs. Achre is usually either out working with her special education students or on the phone with concerned parents.
During the school year, the ACLD helps learning-disabled students with their homework and prepares them for tests, but during the five-week summer program the students can get the special attention they need.
"No two learning-disabled students are alike," Mrs. Achre said. "Some can't read, some have attention problems, some are disorganized, some have trouble with math. We can zero in on the problem area and play catch-up over the summer."
Mrs. Achre said the idea for the ACLD "came out of my own frustration." One of her children was very intelligent, but had problems with coordination and often reversed his letters when writing. He showed classic symptoms of dyslexia, but there were no programs for learning-disabled kids.
Buhl Day honoree Judy Achre helps Terry Paske, 8, of Sharpsville, assemble a puzzle at the Association for children with Learning Disabilities' office at the F.H. Buhl Club in Sharon. Mrs. Achre startred the ACLD in 1972 to help her son, who exhibited classic dyslexia symptoms, after finding there were no programs to help him. (David E. Dale/Herald)
The ACLD started in 1972 as a "parent hand-holding group." It was made up of mothers who were frustrated because their children were bright but no one could reach them.
"It's puzzling because the kids have normal intelligence," Mrs. Achre said.
Schools now have special education programs for learning-disabled children, but Mrs. Achre feels they are not always appropriate. For this reason she does volunteer advocacy work at schools so the students can get proper attention.
"People ask me why I don't get paid (for working with ACLD)," Mrs. Achre said. "I get paid 1,000 different ways that have nothing to do with dollars and cents."
Children are the common thread in all of Mrs. Achre's community activities. She works with the Young People's Concert Committee and, as an F.H. Buhl Trustee, works with the activities director at Buhl Farm to coordinate programs for young people. Also, through the League of Women Voters, she helps with Kids Around Town, which introduces children to solving problems in their community. Mrs. Achre helps promote the organization and gives workshops in the schools.
"The kids at Musser School said it was unfair that their building was not air conditioned," Mrs. Achre said. "So they wrote letters to the school board and went to the school board meetings."
Mrs. Achre said that Kids Around Town helps the students do something about the problem rather than just be angry about it.
"Can you imagine fifth-grade kids speaking at a school board meeting?" she said. "I hope they run for school board some day."
During her busy days, Mrs. Achre tries to squeeze in a few laps around the swimming pool. She also loves to spend time with her three children and three grandchildren, although they live in Indiana, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh.
Mrs. Achre was surprised to be selected as a Buhl Day honoree.
"I was overwhelmed. It's very humbling," she said.
Despite her honor, Mrs. Achre will still be busy on Sept. 7. She was recently elected as the first woman president of the Sharon Rotary Club, and it is the president- elect's duty to take charge of the Rotary food booth at Buhl Day.
"I have to make sure 1,000 beef barbecue sandwiches are prepared," she laughed.