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The Anderson County High School gymnasium, filled with more than 400 students and 20 chaperones, fell silent for the prom king and queen nomination announcement. The suspense in the room was palpable.
When Kristina Lange and Max Scott’s names were called, the room erupted in shouts and applause.
It was a magical moment but even more so because Lange and Scott are special needs students and, most likely, the first special needs prom king and queen the high school has ever nominated.
“It was like a utopia, one short, perfect moment. It was the most defining moment in my career as a teacher,” said Heather Adams, a Family and Consumer Science teacher and chaperone.
Adams said it was a perfect moment and she wished she could have locked the doors and kept the outside world out to preserve it forever. She said there are no two students more deserving of prom king and queen than Lange and Scott, who are kind and loving to every student.
Being crowned prom king and queen was a high point in an uphill battle for Lange and Scott.
“Wow” was the only word both students had to describe their feelings.
While the ACHS students know Lange as prom queen, Lange’s mother, Patricia, has another name for her - “miracle child.”
Patricia Lange, whose daughter has autism, attention deficient disorder and slew of health problems, said Kristina wasn’t supposed to make it past her first year of life.
She has had 13 major surgeries. One surgery was to reconstruct her ear canal at 4 years old to help her hear and communicate. Prior to that, Kristina communicated by sign language. Until 2 years ago, she ate through a feeding tube.
She has 18 specialists she visits to help with a variety of things from speech therapy to a renal specialist to make sure her kidneys are working properly every 2 months.
In 2007, Patricia Lange moved her family from California to Lawrenceburg, a decision that she said she is glad she made.
“The amazing thing is this wouldn’t have happened in California,” Patricia Lange said. “The kids are wonderful here.”
Patricia Lange said she knows her tiny 4-foot, 5-inch daughter isn’t like most teens. She said Kristina will probably never be able to drive a car, she has to repeat things thousands of time to learn something new and things that come easy to most, such as a two-way conversation with a friend, isn’t easy for Kristina.
“Everything that is automatic for most take a lot of work for her,” said Patricia Lange. “She’s been through a lot but she never gives up. She just keeps going.”
Patricia Lange said she was in tears when she got a phone call letting her know her daughter was crowned queen.
She said all special needs students like her daughter want is to feel like everybody else.
“It was a very big deal for her. She has had to work so hard for everything she has,” Patricia Lange said.
Max’s mother, Sherley Scott, was in the gym when her son was announced as prom king.
“All the kids just roared and cheered. It gave me goose bumps,” said Sherley Scott.
Sherley Scott described her son as a social teen. She said he’s known for freely dispensing hugs.
“We can’t go anywhere without someone knowing him,” she said. “Everybody loves Max. The students accept him for who he is.”
Max has been in school with many of his classmates since kindergarten and developed close friendships. She said the students are very protective of him and a group of boys will look out for him during field trips.
Max was born with a few health issues including a clubfoot and feeding difficulties. Sherley Scott said Max survived on special formula and PediaSure.
“He didn’t eat real food until the age of four,” Sherley Scott said. “I was worried about him.”
She said Max primarily has a speech disability but also suffers from Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, which makes it difficult for him to see and causes sensitivity to light. She said he often wears a cap because of the issues with his eyes.
Sherley Scott said she isn’t sure what her son will do when he graduates but he might become an entomologist because of his interest in insects.
Sherley Scott said Max will work with a job coach to help polish his job interview skills.
Sherley Scott and Patricia Lange said they are both proud of their children and think they are an inspiration.
“My goal is the same as every parent’s goal for their children - to be well-rounded, independent and able to look out for themselves,” said Sherley Scott.