Every year in our county each student learns a poem to recite in front of their class. Hunter chose “But First” by Kathy Kenney-Marshall. The last day of school before the holiday break they announced 2 winners from each class. Knowing that Hunter had stiff competition in his class alone, I didn’t want to get my hopes up to be let down. Anyway, as we were standing around, Hunter’s teacher said: “Since we have everyone here, I want to announce the winners of the poem contest.” Well, we ALL knew one name that was going to be called and it was a little girl that has won the school wide (grade) each year, not to mention her sister as well. So when the teacher called out the names I could not help but look over at the little girl. There it was, the little girls name was called out first, but to my ears I could not believe what I had heard next. Hunter’s name was called. Now, let me tell you that I am not surprised Hunter did well, but I was delighted that he had beaten out some great students.
During the holiday break he practiced and practiced. We told him little pointers such as to scan the audience, say it loud for all to hear, do not start loud and finish soft, do not scratch, and keep your hands folded. Hunter is a wiggle worm, and we knew that if he used his hands and scratched it would be all she wrote.
Yesterday was the school wide Poem Recitation. At 8:00 would be Kindergarten and 1st grade, 9:00 would be 2nd and 3rd grade and 10:00 would be 4th and 5th. We got there around 8:45 to get a good seat to make sure we had a good video of his poem. 9:00 rolled around and all the 2nd and 3rd graders walked in. Hunter went up to the judges table to grab his number.
Now it was time to start. The 2nd grade went first. Then finally it was finally the 3rd grade. While waiting to be called you can tell Hunter was saying his poem to himself, as he was sitting with his feet crossed. This is a child that was diagnosed with ADHD. Finally, it was Hunter’s turn. Hunter walked up so proud and confident. He did not look nervous, and looked straight at the audience. Hunter did not scratch. He held the same level. He scanned the audience like a preacher would when he was trying to communicate with each person. If he messed up no one knew but us or the judges. Standing tall, Hunter’s hands were folded as he had practiced several times before.
As a parent that had taken her child to intense speech therapy for 5 years, it was starting to hit. In front of me, I saw all the hard work that Hunter has put into his therapy. I looked around at his teacher, his speech teacher, the Special Needs Pre-K teacher (who was a student-teacher when Hunter was 3 at his Special Needs class), his Dad and Grandmother. I could see the pride in each one of them. Most of them KNEW where Hunter was at one time.
We were not going to find out the winners until the next day. It was going to be hard to beat the girl that had a poem over 5 minutes. She was the one that had won every year. She was awesome, and acted out the role like an actress. We were hoping to at least find out 2nd and 3rd place. We were only worried about one other boy. He had a poem that was about a minute longer than Hunter’s, but he did not project like Hunter projected. His poem had words that I couldn’t even say. It was good!
Hunter had Bible Club after school, so I went to pick him up an hour after school. I decided to get there a little early so I could go to the Media Center and see if I could get a different angle on Hunter. First I went into the front office and the teacher that was a student teacher when Hunter was 3 was in there. She looked at me with a huge smile and said “Hunter did awesome.” She had tears in her eyes and kept telling me how great he did. The teacher also told someone “I knew him when all he said were vowels.” She told little stories of Hunter when he was in the Special Needs Pre-K. I could not help but cry out of enjoyment.
I left to go to the Media Center when I was stopped by several people bragging on Hunter. There were two Moms that also had children in the contest. They hugged me and told me how great he did. I said “you knew Hunter in Kindergarten.” They said “yes, and he has come such a long way.” By the end of the conversation we were all crying.
Finally I got to the media center. I asked them if I could get a copy of Hunter. One of the ladies in there (who also had a child in the competition) looked at me and said “he did awesome.” She went on and on. The librarian walked in and said that she did not know if it picked up the sound, but we can put him on the broadcast tomorrow. I said, “Oh, don’t do that because he did not win”. She said we would not single him out. We can put others on there. She looked at a list and I noticed it had the winners. Hunter’s name was not on there. I said again, “he did not win.” The other mom, said “but yes he did. He is a big winner in many ways.” So of course I had to cry again and I said “you are so right.”
Hunter did not “win”, but he won in many ways. He touched so many hearts yesterday. Many of these people knew him when he was 5 or younger. Hunter has gone over so many obstacles in his life. For one second, don’t think your child can’t do it. Each child is different in their progress, but you will see the rewards one day. It might be when you least expect it.
( Kristi P. is the mother of Hunter, a child with apraxia of speech. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and child.)