Student Overcomes Asperger’s To Shine
Dozens of gold, silver and bronze medals and framed certificates adorn the walls of 18-year-old Dalton Hiett's room.
"It wasn't my idea to hang them up like this," Hiett said with a laugh.
The framed a-w-a-rds are courtesy
of Hiett's proud grandmother. How-ever, for Hiett, the awards signify years of hard work, dedication and the overcoming of odds.
A 2012 graduate of Winona High School, Hiett was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when he was about 4 years old. The syndrome is considered to be a mild or high-functioning form of Autism.
According to the National Institutes of Health, those with Asperger's often have a difficult time interacting in social situations. While they may want to interact with people, they simply do not know how and often feel isolated as a result.
The most distinguishing symptom of Asperger's though is a person's obsessive interest in a topic or object at the exclusion of any other. They may have trouble seeing the bigger picture. When Dalton was young, these interests included fire trucks and dinosaurs, Karen Hiett, his grandmother, said.
Those with Asperger's often have an extensive vocabulary and are very methodical and structured in how they go about tasks.
"When he was younger he just had to be home at 5 o'clock every day to read his Bible," Ms. Hiett said. "I think he read about 10 chapters a day. He's read through the Bible I don't know how many times."
Despite the challenges Asperger's brought to his life, Hiett established himself as a standout student at Winona High School.
"Just watching him grow up and watching all the things he had to battle," Ms. Hiett said. "A lot of times people didn't understand him or have patience for him. He has had to do a lot of things on his own. We're just so proud of him."
Hiett graduated fourth in his class with a 3.8 GPA. He was a member of the National Honor Society, the FFA and the UIL Academic Team.
He participated in the UIL social studies event and was the first in the school's history to advance to the state competition all four years of his high school career, Ms. Hiett said.
Hub McGlothin, the high school's UIL academic coordinator and social studies coach described Hiett as quiet and reserved when he first met him. However, he decided to take him to a UIL competition just to see what he could do.
McGlothin was stunned when Hiett took home first place.
"I've always liked history," Hiett said. "It seemed the best one to try. I didn't expect to go anywhere with it."
For the social studies competition, contestants are required to read a book on a topic, which changes every year. They also must study a tremendous number of historical documents and other materials, McGlothin said.
This year's topic was Latin America. Contestants were required to know the region's history including events, dates and famous figures such as Cortez and Castro, he said.
"To be able to go to state for four years you really have to pay attention and know what's going on," McGlothin said. "His ability to sit down and constantly study and go over and back over the material is really remarkable."
After joining the UIL team McGlothin said he saw Hiett's confidence grow.
"He's not the same kid he was as a freshman," McGlothin said. "He is much more outgoing and involved. This young man wants to be successful, and I know he has the talent to excel."
Hiett earned more than $8,000 in scholarships including the Tyler Junior College Presidential Scholarship. He is waiting to find out whether he snagged a state UIL scholarship.
He plans to attend TJC in the fall and study in the college's medical sonography program.
Hiett is reluctant to boast of his accomplishments. However, he's grateful for the friends he's made and appreciative of the help he's received in his journey.
"They really helped me out a lot," Hiett said, adding that he is probably most proud of overcoming the obstacles he's faced.