Brandon Benson, 18, is an individual with Down syndrome who has been mainstreamed in public schools throughout his years of education. He is your average teenager who enjoys sports, especially the Thundering Herd, four-wheeler riding and being with friends.
From Ashton Elementary to HHS, Benson has progressed step-for-step, right alongside his classmates.
His mother, Linda, gives much credit to her son’s educators.
“The teachers need recognition because they were there in the classroom, helping other kids understand Brandon’s situation,” Linda Benson said.
She currently assists Benson at Hannan and said that the school has been “wonderful and caring.”
Benson has two teachers that he really considers special to him, Andrea Henderson and Brian Booth.
“Mr. Booth really has a heart for kids,” Linda said.
Benson knows Booth through the work program at HHS that allows him and other special needs students to obtain life skills needed in society. This program has grown at the high school and now Benson is even involved in working at the “Wildcats Den” school store.
In the classroom, Brandon learns with his peers and receives additional attention from the special education teachers. Linda said that her son can learn anything and Brandon added that he “likes school a lot.”
Many of Benson’s friends have been with him since grade school and, according to his mother, they have always looked out for him.
Benson said some of his best friends are Larry, Curtis, Chris and Carl. He is also really good friends with Amanda Neal, Marla Nowlin, Kendra Plants and Brittney Jenkins.
Along with this group of friends, Benson has made many buddies through Special Olympics.
Benson is highly active at the Olympics and participates in all events including basketball and softball. He is also an excellent bowler, placing second and fourth at a Special Olympics tournament in Parkersburg.
In other community activities, this 18-year old is involved in the Go-Getter’s 4-H Club and he enjoyed his last year with the Special Lamb Project. His lamb’s name was “Jumper.” He is also in Boy Scout Troop #88.
Benson is involved in the annual State Buddy Walk held in Charleston every October. He enjoys going there with his friends and walking to show his support for those he knows with Down syndrome. Benson also supports the Autism Walk and all special needs children.
His mom described him as being “happy all of the time” and anyone who sees his contagious smile would know just how blessed he has been.
Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring birth defect, affecting one in every nine hundred children. Along with the common physical characteristics, individuals with Down syndrome often have heart complications and difficulties with hearing and speech along with other health-related issues. But, as in Benson’s case, individuals with Down syndrome can lead successful, productive and happy lives.
Linda said that it has been hard at times, especially when her son can’t tell her what is wrong. But with the support from friends, family, teachers and the entire education system, she is proud that her son has received a great education.
As for hobbies, Benson enjoys listening to country music and listening to his dad play the harmonica. He also likes taking trips to the beach and playing with his dog, Old Yeller.
Benson will graduate with his classmates in spring 2010 and said that he is looking forward to going to prom. He also thanks his classmates for voting him Mr. Wildcat, of which he is very proud. His future plans are to become employed at Green Acres in Lesage.