St. Mary Parish youngster with Down syndrome finds pride showing livestock

John Sonnier, 4-H’er from St. Mary Parish, prepares his pig, Lucky, for showing at the LSU AgCenter Livestock Show.

John Sonnier, 4-H’er from St. Mary Parish, shows off the ribbons he won at the LSU AgCenter Livestock Show. Sonnier has Down syndrome, and his sister says showing livestock has improved his demeanor.


GONZALES, La. — Affectionately known as “John John” by his family, friends and fans, John Sonnier, a 4-H’er from St. Mary Parish, was prepping to show his pigs at the LSU AgCenter’s state livestock show. He stopped occasionally to visit with people passing by and to show off his dance moves.
Sonnier has Down syndrome, and his sister, Brittany Durham, says showing livestock has given him a real purpose.
“It gives him something to be proud of and to accomplish because he doesn’t get to do a lot of other things like kids his age,” Durham said. “So this shows him a sense of pride and something he can be successful at.”
Sonnier started showing livestock four years ago when a family friend let him show their pigs.
Sonnier communicates in short sounds and signs. He gave a quick demonstration of what is required when showing. “You hit the pig with a stick,” his sister said, speaking for him.
He has showed chickens, ducks and rabbits in the past, but preferred pigs.
His 4-H agent, Jennifer Ducote, said Sonnier is just another kid at the shows and with his 4-H Club.
“John, he is a kid with special needs that does not require many needs. He encourages a lot of others. He is pretty normal, and I think he can show others that even with a disability, they can show and do the same things,” Ducote said.
A goal of the 4-H livestock program is to instill in youngsters a sense of responsibility that comes with caring for animals. Sonnier has daily chores with his pigs.
Sonnier described his chores through his sister, “We bathe them and give them water.”
Durham says once Sonnier started caring for his animals, his demeanor became calmer.
“Kids with Down’s, the more of a routine, the better they are each day,” she said.
His family lovingly calls him a clown, but that night in the show ring, Sonnier was a winner — placing third in both of his categories and walking away with more ribbons to add to his growing collection.

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