Theiss Elementary Spelling Bee Winner Shares Her Story
“In between second and third grade, Audrey was diagnosed with high-functioning autism (HFA),” Ginevra Hess said of her fifth-grade daughter, Audrey. “She loves animals, she has a very dry, sarcastic sense of humor, she’s an avid reader, she loves playing video games, and she’s autistic. It’s a small part of who she is, but it can affect her daily life.”
Audrey is the 2020 Klein ISD Elementary Spelling Bee winner, and she will go on to represent the district in the Houston Public Media Spelling Bee on March 7. But for this bee, it’s not all about the spelling.
“Autism is very much a spectrum, so it affects every person differently,” Ginevra said. “In Audrey’s case, she is extremely high-functioning, so she’s incredibly intelligent. In general, though, social situations are challenging for her.”
The Theiss Tiger doesn’t typically like to draw attention to herself, but the anxiety of a social situation seems to subside during the big bee.
“It takes a lot of courage for her to get up there in front of everyone,” Ginevra said. “It’s so impressive how brave she is.”
Participating in the Spelling Bee has helped Audrey come out of her shell.
“She has become so much more outgoing and self-confident,” Ginevra said. “Audrey is a very private person, so it’s been wonderful to see her allow other people a glimpse of the girl we know and love.”
When Audrey won her campus spelling bee and the district spelling bee, she made the decision to talk about her HFA diagnosis. She hoped that it would encourage and help other kids who have HFA.
“There are so many amazing things about Audrey that could potentially be attributed to autism,” Ginevra said. “It brings both challenges and blessings into her life, which is something we can all relate to. The way she learns is that she’s able to just absorb words. She may have somewhat of a photographic-type memory.”
According to Audrey, though, there’s a technique to keeping cool, calm and collected under the pressure, and it starts with practice.
“I practice alone,” she said. “It’s mostly logic. It’s important to know the language of origin because different languages have different rules and sounds. Spelling is like a puzzle.”
Although the Hess Family is Audrey’s biggest cheerleader, Ginevra says that their Theiss Family is a close second. She notes that the campus has been supportive and a true champion for her daughter.
When Audrey isn’t spelling everything from A to Z, she enjoys spending time at the Hess household with her family and pets. She is looking forward to attending Doerre Intermediate next year!
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Klein ISD is a school district in Klein, Texas located in northwestern Harris County. The district spans approximately 87.5 square miles and serves more than 54,000 students in 33 elementary schools, 10 intermediate campuses, one high school program of choice, and 5 high schools.
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