With a big grin and an excited fluttering of hands, he jumps from the car and runs to the pin. “Feed Hampshire,” the boy states in a very serious manner. He proceeds to walk to the feed bucket and tediously measure out just the right amount of food for Hampshire the pig. You see Hampshire is my buddy Sean’s 4-H project and show hog for the North Florida Livestock Show & Sale. Sean cares for him every day making sure the pin is clean, there is enough food and water for the pig, and Hampshire is “walked” so that he is in tip-top shape for show night. “C’mon Mecky (this is Sean’s name for me), walk my pig,” he calls out, determined that I will see him make his pig walk around the pin. This is pride. This is understanding that his job is important and he is capable of doing it. This is establishing potential career skill. This is life skills at work in their purest form. Because Sean is severely autistic and mostly nonverbal. But look at him grow! Filling the feed trough, getting clean water, grooming Hampshire, and making sure his four-legged friend knows just what to do when it’s showtime. Connection. Responsibility. Caring. Independence. Pride. Belonging.
Although Hampshire missed his weight requirement by 7lbs, Sean still wanted to help take care of the other animals. He was seen walking the showbarn with his friend Emma, who was also a first time show participant, helping her take care of Wilbur, Hampshire’s pin mate. Sean’s mom shared on Facebook regarding the project, “It’s a big moment and milestone for Sean, he has worked hard learning how to take care of his pig…” and shared privately that she is confident he will have skills to belong in the adult world all because of his participation in 4-H.
Making weight in life skills development proves to be the champ once again.