He's a spelling machine and it doesn't take long for 9-and-a-half-year-old Ethan Hamernik to impress you.
The fifth-grader will be the youngest contestant during the 11th- annual Macomb Daily Regional Spelling Bee on Sunday.
"I'm ready to win, I am confident," Ethan said.
But Ethan is not only one of the youngest contestants in the history of the spelling bee, he faces an extra challenge: he has Asperger syndrome.
Academically he is at the top of his class. In fact, Ethan skipped a grade at his previous school in Toledo, advancing from kindergarten to the second grade.
"He is so smart", said Ethan's mom, Crystal. "At age 3, he started reading rapidly and is already on the fifth Harry Potter book."
But due to his Asperger's, Ethan lacks social skills and has a hard time focusing on one thing for long periods of time and breaking routine. He has trouble picking up body language, facial expression and voice tone.
"I just want him to one day ask a girl to a dance or have friends over for a sleepover, those are the things we worry about, but take it one day at a time," Crystal said.
One thing Ethan's parents aren't worried about are his spelling skills. Ethan is a four-time spelling bee champion.
He showed off his talents by winning the spelling bee at his school, Merritt Academy in New Haven.
Ethan also won the Michigan Charter School Spelling Bee last month in Trillium Academy Taylor.
The regional spelling bee is made up of 76 students in grades fifth through eighth.
The winner will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in late May.
Ethan's parents couldn't be more proud.
"When he won his last spelling be, my husband's eyes just welled up with tears. It was so amazing to see him on that stage and see him win. We know he can do anything," said Crystal.
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