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Watch Tyler Kaut jump for joy when his classmates select him as homecoming king! Courtney Crowder / The Register

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When Diane Kaut’s second child, Tyler, was born with Down syndrome, she couldn’t comprehend how this disability may alter the course of her son’s life.

She had lots of questions, but the one the gnawed at her most was whether her son would be liked and accepted at school.

On Friday, she got her answer: a definitive, resounding “yes!”

Because on Friday, Tyler, 18, a senior at Southeast Polk High School, was named homecoming king. After hearing his name called, Tyler literally jumped for joy, running to the center of the school's basketball court and dancing. His fellow classmates cheered, giving him a standing ovation and offering endless high fives and selfies.

Among the smiles and shouts, quite a few tears of happiness were also shed, said Angela Duden, one of Tyler’s teachers.

On Saturday, Tyler will attend the homecoming dance for the third year in a row.

Diane and her husband, Mike, were in the audience Friday morning, but neither had been told Tyler would win, so they were both pretty surprised as well.

“Tyler has a lot of friends at the school,” Mike said. “He actually knows everybody in that school, but I didn’t know that meant he was going to win. All the other guys that were selected for the homecoming court are great guys, too. Honestly, it’s too bad they all can’t be homecoming king.”

The Kauts, who have two other children — Andre, a senior at Grandview University, and Rachel, a sophomore at Southeast Polk — said soon after Tyler was born, they sought out a school district where Tyler would be able to flourish. They settled on the Southeast Polk district and moved to Pleasant Hill just before he started school.

Indeed, in all the years Tyler and his siblings have attended school, the family has been not only welcomed, but warmly embraced, the Kauts said.

“The kids at school are just so awesome,” Diane said. “They are real kind and accepting, and they just offer him unconditional love.”

"I’ll never forget: One time, I said to one of his friends that I was hoping she could make it to his birthday party,” Diane continued, “and she said, ‘Oh, I’ll always come for Tyler,’ and to know that my child is that loved — that just meant so much to me.”

Tyler’s coronation came on the 18th anniversary of a serious heart surgery he underwent as an infant. And the assembly was also just a few months after he had gone through another surgery — this time to put a shunt in his brain.

“Tyler’s had a tough go of it, but he is an amazing kid,” Diane said. “He always stays upbeat and, honestly, he is the one who lifts us up when we are down.”

At school, Tyler is a source of joy for his classmates as well, Duden said. He’s so energetic that it sometimes feels like his spirit and optimism radiate into the people around him, Duden said.

“He is such a well-known and well-liked kid by everybody, and you can tell that by just the number of kids who stop him in the hallway,” she said. “And I think it’s because he is so happy. There are very few negative things that come out of Tyler.”

The Friday morning assembly at Southeast Polk High School came after about three weeks of voting, Duden said. While only the seniors select the homecoming court, the entire building votes for the winner.

Earlier this week, Duden and Tyler worked on how to respond both if he won and if he lost. When his name was called, Tyler didn’t exactly follow the plan they worked out, Duden said with a laugh, but the student body seemed to expect that level of excitement from Tyler.

Tyler is known to be a little bit of a rock star, Mike said, but the way that everyone embraced Tyler Friday, well, that was simply overwhelming. In some ways, the response reminded Mike of how his son and entire his family have been embraced since Day 1 at Southeast Polk.

“All I can say is that I'm proud to be a Ram today,” Mike said.

 

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