Fourteen-year-old Lone Star student Ricky Ross is beaming these days, after having placed higher than any other Lone Star student at the Regional Spelling Bee on February 8th. The achievement is made even grander by the realization of the obstacles that Ricky had to overcome to get to this point. When he was two, Ricky was diagnosed as moderate to severely autistic. He was nearly five before he could speak full words and form small sentences.
“When he was initially diagnosed at two, all these plans I had for him just sort of disappeared,” His mother, Tina McNac, told Sapulpa Times on Thursday.
When Ricky began to speak full words and then sentences at the age of five, his mother was overjoyed. “That was a huge step,” she says.
Since then, the strides have continued coming. McNac attributes his amazing progress to Meredith Espinozahis equally amazing teacher at Jefferson Heights, who “would never let him stay where he was at, always wanted him to do better, be better.”
Ricky later attended Lone Star elementary and then spent two years with Epic Charter Schools before returning to Lone Star in eighth grade, where he’s continuing to improve. For the first time, Ricky doesn’t have any special education classes. “He’s reached a level that I never thought he would’ve been able to,” McNac says.
Ricky Ross has gained his share of support from the Lone Star Schools, including Mrs. Shibley and Mrs. Nichols, who both came to support him at the Regional Spelling Bee. McNac said Ricky won the Lone Star school Spelling Bee without really preparing for it all. “He didn’t even realize it was happening that day,” she said. “A friend said, ‘hey you know, today’s the spelling bee,’ and he just went and won it.”
After winning the Lone Star Spelling Bee, Ricky advanced to the Regionals, held at TTC in Owasso. He made it to round five and correctly spelled words like “gothamite,” “macular,” “collision,” and “ammunition.” The word he ultimately lost on was “erstwhile.” Ricky said he thought the pronouncer said “first while.” Shibley and Nichols both said that no other student in Lone Star history had made it so far in the regional championship. “It was so nerve-wracking,” McNac says. “I think I was more nervous than he was.”
When it was all over, she offered to treat Ricky to whatever he wanted to eat. His wish? A blue coconut slush from Sonic.
After he leaves Lone Star this year, Ricky plans to attend Sapulpa and hopefully enroll in Central Tech’s electrician program. “He’s amazing at building speakers and computers, he’s really mechanically inclined,” McNac said.
Tina McNac also has a set of 6-year-old twin boys that are also on the autistic spectrum. She says that watching her son’s journey has given her hope that her other boys can do the same. “He’s amazing. He could really be anything he wants to be.”