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10-year-old autistic boy shows hogs at livestock show (w/video, gallery)

By Sara Sneath
Feb. 27, 2014 at 7:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 27, 2014 at 8:28 p.m.

Ty Foeh, 10, of Nursery, center, holds up a chicken to show the judges during the market broiler competition at the Victoria Livestock Show in Victoria.

Kaden Ramirez, 10, of Victoria, hunts, participates in rodeos and shows hogs at the Victoria Livestock Show. He's also a child with autism.

Kaden's 4-H leader, Jackie Parsons, said she's been with Victoria County 4-H for 10 years and doesn't know of another kid with autism who has participated in Victoria County 4-H.

"I sit there, and I look at Kaden, and there is nothing different in him," Parsons said. "There isn't anything he can't do."

Kaden was diagnosed with autism two years ago, when he was 8 years old. Kaden's mom, Kimberly Copenhaver Ramirez, said she and Kaden's dad, Robert Ramirez, could tell something was different about Kaden by the time he was 5. Kaden often fixated on objects and was overly sensitive to loud noises and crowds, she said.

"He lives in a different world," Ramirez said. "It's just about teaching him to live and function in our world."

Ramirez wasn't sure how the livestock show would handle having an autistic participant when she entered Kaden for the first time last year, but everyone has been very helpful, she said.

When Kaden shows his hog, his mom is allowed to stand on the outskirts of the arena so Kaden can see her.

"Sometimes, he gets anxious in big crowds and locks up. If he can see someone he knows, it calms him down," she said. "Other than that, he doesn't need any help."

Kaden takes his pig, Sadie, for walks every day. He's also particularly fond of scratching her belly and lying back on her to rest.

"I love this pig," Kaden said.

Craig Lauger, a friend of the Ramirez family, said, "Kaden is a great kid. He works real hard with his pig. Nobody treats him any different."

Other parents with autistic children might not put their child into the arena, where there is the possibility of failure or a breakdown, but Ramirez said encouraging Kaden to participate is a kind of therapy.

"Autism is not curable, but it's treatable, and this is his treatment right here," Ramirez said.

Kaden and his mom wear matching custom-made bracelets, that read, "Different, not less."

But Kaden isn't scared of being different. In fact, he's not scared of anything, he said.

"I'm ready for it right now," Kaden said about the market hog judging Thursday afternoon.



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