Benjamin Tanner, second from left, is congratulated by his mother, Colette Tanner, and members of the Louisiana Society Daughters of the American Revolution after winning the statewide American history essay contest. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, April 04, 2014 4:10 PM
When Benjamin Tanner, a seventh-grader at Our Lady of Queen of Heaven School, came home last fall with an assignment to write an 800-word American history essay, his parents just looked at it as homework.
But Benjamin, who has a severe case of Asperger’s syndrome, looked at it as a challenge and shocked everyone by winning not only the regional competition for his grade level but the state one as well.
The annual essay contest, sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution, is open to parochial school students in grades 5-8.
Myra Whitlow, registrar for the Calcasieu Parish DAR chapter, said there are normally about 300 entries in the parish. Whitlow said a local chapter winner is chosen for each grade and then a state winner is selected from among the 48 chapters.
“Benjamin’s paper was an absolutely superb paper,” Whitlow said. “All the judges gave him 100 percent, and I had never had an essay with that before. And the judges did not know he had Asperger’s syndrome either.”
Benjamin’s mother, Colette Tanner, said she doesn’t like to refer to Asperger’s as a disability, but rather a “different ability.”
Tanner said Benjamin has difficulty processing spoken words and tactile stimuli. Communicating verbally is challenging for him, she said, and he communicates best with poems and limericks.
Whitlow said the judges gasped in surprise when they were told Benjamin has Asperger’s during the state award banquet a few weeks ago.
“He writes so well, and you can tell he gave a lot of thought to his topic,” she said. “This child, his paper was thoughtful and researched. It was a challenge for any fifth- to eighth-grader.”
Tanner said she and her husband did guide Benjamin during the three weeks he worked on his essay, but insists the words were all his.
“He would dictate, and we wrote down exactly what he said,” Tanner said. “We kept it the way he wanted, the sentence structure and everything. He did the work.”
Tanner said she couldn’t be more proud of Benjamin and winning the contest is an opportunity to show people what somebody can accomplish given the right tools.
“Now somebody else gets to see what a great creation he is,” she said. “We get to see it all the time. This is vindication and validation of what we already knew.”
Posted By: Dee On: 4/5/2014
Congrats, Benjamin. You did yourself, your parents, your school, and your state PROUD.