Christian Academy second grader with Down Syndrome taking part in regional spelling bee

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville student with Down syndrome has overcome the odds and landed a spot in the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) spelling bee.

Sosie Smith is in second grade at the Providence School, a school on the Christian Academy of Louisville's Rock Creek campus that was established to give students with Down Syndrome the chance for a unique educational experience.

Sosie won her coveted spot by competing against other second graders at Christian Academy, including some who do not have Down Syndrome.

S-H-O-C-K spells the first reaction of Tara Smith, Sosie Smith's mom, when she learned her second grader out-spelled her classmates for the win.

"Her teacher walks in and says, 'I've got some good news!'" Tara Smith said, adding that, "to be the one left standing was pretty amazing. I'm very proud of her."

Although Down syndrome students at Providence School do receive individual attention, they spend most of their day in a regular classroom -- something Steve Smith, Sosie's dad, appreciates.

"It was not a special event -- the results were," he said. "But she's included is the thing we get with schools, teachers and friends: that she she is part of a typical day for everyone to be included -- and that reinforces why we're here at Christian Academy, is to be included, and that's how we feel. People with differences is really the world we want to be in."

"I love my friends because my friends are the best," Sosie adds.

But with the win comes some hard work.

"After school, my mom asked me to do my spelling over, and over, and over again," Sosie said, laughing, before adding: "Just kidding, mom."

"We have a love-hate relationship right now," Tara Smith laughed. "We practice all the time."

Her parents hope Sosie, by spelling her way to the spotlight, will teach an even bigger lesson.

"All the other kids who will be at the bee will be a little shocked at first, and parents too, and I'm just hoping to open their eyes a little bit and enlighten them of the capabilities that are there," Tara Smith said.

"She keeps hitting these milestones and exceeding my expectations which just makes me realize that I don't know her capabilities," she added. "We all don't. Se we keep just going a little bit extra and she always seems to rise to the occasion."

The word that won Sosie her spot is fitting: JOYFUL.

"She may work on things for months -- for instance, riding a two-wheel bike," Tara Smith said. "She doesn't think she can do it, and says she can't, but when she gets it, the joy on her face and the excitement -- that's what makes all the hard work worth it!"

And her friends are always happy to encourage her.

"They said, 'Congratulations to sosie!'" Sosie laughed.

Sosie will join more than 350 students next Friday, Feb. 23, at the Association of Christian Schools International Regional Spelling Bee.

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