A day in nature: E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center hosts Celebrating Special Needs in Nature (PHOTOS)


Bob Walker, a.k.a. Turtle Bob, shows Jacob Gonzales of Mary Esther, how to properly hold the diamondback turtle. "Hold it like a hamburger," Walker said.

Jennie McKeon | The Sun
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 05:49 PM.

Ryan Kelly and his family stare in awe at the one-eyed, red tail hawk named Medusa at E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.

Like the majestic bird who was injured before coming to Biophilia, Ryan faced a bleak outlook on life after he was diagnosed with autism as a toddler.

"Doctors told us he would be institutionalized by the time he was 10," said his dad George. "He didn't even speak until he was six."

Today, Ryan and his family look like any other. The tenth-grader is adjusting well. He's already landed a job at Basmati's with his sister Darcey, and likes his teachers at South Walton High School.

Ryan joined dozens of other families with special needs children last Saturday afternoon at Biophilia for their first ever Celebrating Special Needs in Nature Day.

The Kellys are brand new to the South Walton area. While it's hard enough to adjust to a new area, for Ryan, change can be a little more difficult.

"It's a very friendly area," George said. "Basmati's and the school have been very open-minded, helping Ryan get acclimated."

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