Most people can remember their high school prom with fondness. There are many wonderful things about a prom and many people consider it to be a right of passage. For high school teenagers who have special needs, a prom can be a bit overwhelming due to noise, special clothing and challenging social demands. Luckily our high school district offers special education students the opportunity to attend a special needs prom.
Our daughter Danielle, who has autism, attended the special needs prom along with many of her classmates. It had all the trimmings of a traditional prom but on a more manageable level. It included dinner and dancing, fancy dresses, bow ties, up-do hairstyles and manicured nails. What a joy it was to see all the kids dressed up, posing for pictures and some even taking selfies with friends.
As parents it was particularly heartwarming to see Danielle having so much fun. When she was diagnosed with autism at age four we didn’t think she would ever be able to attend a prom. So of course we were right there among the paparazzi of parents taking photos. The promenade beforehand provided a social opportunity for the students but also for the parents. Also, many siblings were out there supporting their brothers and sisters with special needs on this happy occasion.
The high school staff really worked hard to make this a wonderful enchanted evening for the students. Extra support was given where needed and the event was well supervised. In fact, many faculty members came by on their own time to see the students and pose for photos. Danielle’s one-to-one assistant attended and was a great help and support to Danielle. She provided safety, encouragement, cues and prompts for her to dance and socialize. Without her support, Danielle would not have been able to attend.
Knowing that Danielle was in capable hands, we took the opportunity to go out to dinner ourselves. Parents of children with special needs don’t get out much and this was a welcome and needed break for us. When we returned, Danielle asked for one more dance, then used her augmentative communication machine to say, “goodbye and have a good day.” That is her way of saying it is time to go home. Truly a night for Danielle to remember and we are grateful that she has this memory to cherish.
Copyright 2016 David and Mercedes Rizzo
All photos copyright 2016 David and Mercedes Rizzo. All rights reserved.