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Oklahoma State University student, Skyline fifth-grader grow at Junior Livestock Show

Author: Kristy

By Justin Tate
Posted:  03/04/2014 11:51

Matthew Sitton is an 11-year-old student in the fifth grade at Skyline Elementary. Lead by his coach and baby sitter Shelbi Kautz, Matthew became champion in the Southdown Ewe category at the Junior Livestock Show at the Payne County Expo Center Monday.
It is his second year to show sheep in competition.
Matthew Sitton has Down syndrome, but with the help of his mother Shelly and Kautz, he has found success in the show ring.
“We have been doing this for a little over a year,” Kautz said. “He’s gotten to be really good at it.”
Kautz met Matthew Sitton in her junior year at Oklahoma State. Her adviser, Matthew’s mother, hired Kautz as a baby sitter for her son.
“I hired her because she worked with kids with Down syndrome and other special needs in California,” Shelly Sitton said. “We hired her on as a baby sitter and got the bonus that she has  all this ability with the sheep.”


Kautz grew up in California raising Southdown lambs. Kautz was successful even at the national level, and eventually moved to El Reno to attend Redlands Community College. Kautz is pursuing a degree in agricultural communications at OSU.
“That’s a very special relationship,” Shelly Sitton said. “It takes somebody special to have the patience to work with someone who has challenges.”
Showing sheep has been the foundation for Kautz and Matthew Sitton’s relationship. It’s from there that he has grown in all different life skills.
“I think you learn life lessons in a show ring that you can’t learn playing a sport and you can’t learn just in a classroom,” Kautz said. “Working with an animal and having that type of responsibility for a child is very important.”
Kautz said the fifth-grader lives for working with his sheep. He puts in the time and work it takes to care for his animals, and Kautz said when he walks into the ring he is just like every other 11-year-old boy.
“He shows like every other little kid,” Kautz said. “Last year, he used to get nervous before he walked into the ring. Now he’s just like, ‘All right, it’s time to show,’ and walks on in and does his thing and is proud of himself.”
Shelly Sitton said she has supported her son because, having shown cattle as a young FAA member, she knows what raising animals can do for her son.
“When you look at a special needs individual, the skills you are trying to teach are so much different,” Shelly Sitton said. “For Matthew who struggles a little bit with attention span and doesn’t communicate quite as well, you are looking at building those skills in the show ring.”
Shelly Sitton said her son has developed skills that will help him in school and life through the shows.
“Learning to take care of his animals is important, but the thing I’ve seen him develop the most is focus,” she said.
Kautz reinforces those skills everytime Matthew Sitton enters the ring. They say, “Focus, we are champions, we are tough and we are strong.”
“She treats him like there is nothing wrong with him — like he’s any other kid,” Shelly Sitton said. “He functions much better with her there. His first instinct when he’s getting ready is, ‘Where’s Shelbi?’”
Kautz said Matthew Sitton will continue to show sheep for as long as he wants, most likely until he graduates high school. For Kautz, being there for Matthew is a reward enough.
“Everytime he walks out he says, ‘I’m so proud. I did so good,’” Kautz said. “Seeing that smile on his face is priceless.”
As Matthew continues his path, Kautz and his mother will be there the whole way.
“Academically, he’s never going to get math like you or me, but when he walks in that show ring he’s just like everybody else,” Shelly Sitton said.

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