When Jimmie came to our school in second grade he had been home schooled all his life and had severe learning disabilities, including a mild mental disability, that had never been diagnosed. By the time he was in fourth grade and began coming to our afterschool program, he was pretty much mute by choice. He walked through the halls with his head down and never spoke without prompting. When you would ask him a question, he might answer in a mono-syllable, but he would never look and remained "hunkered" down to try to disappear.
At the end of fourth grade, we began the Archery in the Schools program, and Jimmie was one of the first to come into the afterschool program to try out our new sport. Although I was skeptical and stayed near him in case he needed extra assistance, I knew it was imperative for Jimmie to be "like everyone else" as much as possible. Boy, did I find out that I was wrong - he wasn't shooting like everybody... he was blowing them away! After explaining the shot sequence and letting him cast his first arrow, I stepped back and he grouped all five shots HIS FIRST TIME ON THE LINE! Needless to say, the kids went WILD! Our other coach, Mark, walked next to him to pat him on the back and he flinched away from him...it was like he had never been patted on the back or didn't know what praise was all about. He had been flying under the radar so long, he thought he was invisible.
However, archery changed all of that. He became the top shooter the FIRST week and soon after zinged his first "Robin Hood" during practice.... and Jimmie changed. Personally, we began to see him interact with children during practice. They were giving him "high fives" and cheering for him and he was soaking it up like a sponge. When a new child would come into practice, Jimmie would go stand next to them and help them understand the rules and shot sequence - he was finally the "leader" and the "expert" in an area - something that had never happened in his young life.
Then the teachers began calling wanting to know "what in the world did you do to Jimmie?" I was caught off guard and immediately began to think something was wrong. Then the teachers continued - Jimmie was a changed boy. He was listening in class. He was answering questions and about two months after archery began, he slowly raised his hand to ask a question in class - the first time he had ever voluntarily asked anything. The teachers in the room had to leave to hide the tears in their eyes.
So a year later, Jimmie was in the middle of the state mandated testing and was assisting with the daily "fun shoots" we had for testing rewards and we knew things had turned around for him but we still didn't know how much they had. However, when the results of the testing came back in, we knew. Jimmie had scored PROFICIENT (which for you non-Education, non-Kentucky) people, is a 3 out of 4 scale on his Practical Living/Vocational Studies test and the Apprentice on the remaining tested areas (2 of 4) when the year before he had score only Novices (or one of four).
More than the obvious educational benefits, Jimmie has friends now. He talks with them and is one of the "heroes" on the archery team. He travels with the team to ASA competitions and has raised his head to see the world. He already looks forward to the future in archery and is talking about working in an archery shop when he graduates.... GRADUATES... Jimmie is thinking about graduating from high school....all because of archery.