When he was just 2 years old, Jason Cirkovic's doctor delivered a devastating diagnosis. She told Jason's parents their son suffered from autism and she predicted he would never speak.
Was she ever wrong.
This week, Cirkovic is in Indianapolis as one of hundreds of high school students or recent graduates to compete in the National Speech and Debate Meet. He will be delivering his original oratory - a speech he wrote about the pursuit of happiness.
It's been quite a life's journey for the recent Eagle Valley High School graduate. According to Jason's mom, Teresa Cirkovic, she originally sought out medical advice when her son reached age 2 and still wasn't talking. When she received the news that he was autistic and would likely never speak, Teresa blurted out what became a prophetic response, "That just won't work. I have five kids. He will have to talk."
Ultimately, he did. But it wasn't until his freshman year at EVHS that Jason decided to speak up in front of people.
To this day, he can't really say what prompted him to join the newly formed speech and debate team. But from the start, he loved it.
Jason started out with creative storytelling. In this discipline, competitors are given three prompts and a few minutes to come up with a story-telling performance with a chair as their only prop. From there he moved over to original oratory.
When he was competing during his sophomore year, Jason's original work was about his autism. The first time Teresa heard the speech, she was reduced to tears.
Making it to nationals has been a big dream for Cirkovic. He qualified to compete back in January against some stiff statewide competition. "I don't have any idea how many kids will be there at nationals, but it has to be in the thousands," he said.
At nationals, each competitor is guaranteed six rounds of competition. The top finishers from those six rounds get to move up. One of Jason's goals is to make it out of the initial rounds. The other is to just bask in the experience of being at nationals.
Traveling with Jason to this week's national competition are his EVHS advisors, Mary Ann Stavney and Abby Rittmiller. In the days proceeding his June 9 departure, he and his mother went suit shopping.
"Now I am all armored up," he said last week.
When he returns from Indianapolis, Jason will spend the summer working before heading off to Colorado Mountain College's Spring Valley Campus for college this fall. "I want to study communications and become a motivational public speaker. That's my dream job," he said.
That's a pretty amazing dream for a kid who wasn't supposed to ever speak. But Jason has proven he has a whole lot to say.