It’s 10:15 a.m. on July 11, 2018. Carter Hall, the auditorium for Crotched Mountain School, is alive with hustle and bustle as the audience takes their seats. In front, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, flanked by the members of the Executive Council, stands and welcomes the attendees—constituents, dignitaries, lobbyists — essentially a who’s who of the Granite State political scene. It’s one of the summer “road trip meetings,” taken by the Governor and the Executive Council to various locales throughout the state. It’s a big deal and everyone is excited.
In the back there’s a young man who’s as cool as a cucumber, despite the fact he’s got a big job to do. The Governor wraps up his welcome and it’s Mr. Cool’s cue. He hefts the flagpole and walks down the aisle, presenting the colors, as the full house stands at attention and watches him go.
In an absolutely airtight performance, he walks the aisle, pivots, and stands ramrod straight as the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. After, he places the flagpole into its base and exits. No one realizes the incredible feat they just witnessed.
But that doesn’t matter to Reid.
He’s got places to go and people to see.
His work here is done.
FINDING HIS STRIDE
Reid is one of the most instantly recognizable students at Crotched Mountain School. His mop of dark hair, his intense eyes, and, of course, his trademark tube socks pulled up to the hollow of his knees. But more than his façade and fashion sense, it’s his demeanor that distinguishes him; Reid is a man in motion. Catching him sitting in place for an extended period of time is akin to a Yeti sighting.
Watching him go about his business on campus, you would never in a million years think he was a student who, at one point, was faced with an enormous—almost overpowering—collection of extremely challenging behaviors.
Before he enrolled at Crotched Mountain School in 2011, Reid’s home life was punctuated by instances of smashed car windows, violent outbursts, even self-injurious behaviors, all arising from a complex mix of severe cognitive deficits, communication challenges, and autistic symptoms. However, beyond even those barriers, it was perhaps the paralyzing anxiety that boxed Reid in for most of his life.
“Reid can get very nervous processing his environment,” says Meagan Ingalls, Student Services Coordinator at Crotched Mountain School, who works closely with Reid and his family. “He may have the highest anxiety level of any student here, so he’s always on his guard.”
Dogs have always proven to be a unique and terrifying source of anxiety for Reid. The mere sight of a dog would send him running; it was the loudness and the unpredictability of their behavior that activated his flight response.
But, as is the case with all progress at Crotched Mountain School, big changes happen with small steps. Working with his teachers, staff, and occupational therapists, Reid strove to overcome his canine-inspired fear. He spent extended time with docile therapy dogs, then moved on to giving dogs treats — from twenty feet away or tossing them into the room from the hallway — eventually inching closer and closer.
And then, this summer, he took a dog for a walk around the Crotched Mountain School campus.
PROVING HIS MEDAL
Reid has always loved sports. But his anxiety has been a major deterrent, like a chain staked to the ground, holding him back. Gradually, with the help of his Crotched Mountain support network, Reid chipped away at this social and emotional brick wall, working his way–step by step–into the full menu of accessible sports at his disposal.
When Tyler Rodgers, Recreational Therapist at Crotched Mountain School, first started working with him, Reid steered clear of large groups, intimidated by the sensory overload and unpredictability that came with throngs of people. Today? When the Special Olympics roll around, Reid is square in the thick of it.
“He has become much more interactive with people,” Tyler says. “The state games at UNH are packed with people and noise. Between events Reid is walking around and checking out all the displays and exhibitions. He is participating in the community.”
The upside of his liberation? Reid has enough bronze, silver, and gold medals from Special Olympics to fill a Boeing C-17.
In 2018 alone, he medaled in the 25 meter run, the 50 meter run, the softball throw, the 100 meter walk, the slalom, and the super giant slalom. He participates in all Special Olympics state and regional games, as well as basketball, bowling, track and field, and aquatics.
Reid has enough bronze, silver, and gold medals from Special Olympics to fill a Boeing C-17.
“He’s probably the most active, most involved athlete we have at Crotched Mountain,” Tyler says. “He’s come such a long way.”
To see his progress in its clearest form, you need only attend the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Games. The prelude to the Games takes place every year at the town center of Waterville Valley Resort. Friends, families, and onlookers are packed in, shouting at the top of their lungs. Music is blasting. Fireworks are firing. It’s a about as busy and active a venue as you’ll ever see.
The centerpiece of the pomp and circumstance is the parade, featuring each team walking down main street to a chorus of frenzied applause. In the nighttime winter chill, the Crotched Mountain team stands at the ready, waiting for the announcer to welcome them into the hullabaloo.
Standing at the front, ready to lead his team onward and holding the team sign aloft, is Reid. He isn’t bothered by the noise or the crowd or the moment. In many ways, these steps he’s about to take, bearing the Crotched Mountain standard, will be a performance even more impressive than his ski runs.
The announcer calls for Crotched Mountain and the crowd erupts.
Reid gets to work.