I never attended my high school Prom, an unfortunate fact that continues to stick in my craw. I did receive an invitation to my prom and I was thrilled. Unfortunately the invite was rescinded (in the middle of the cafeteria with an audience) about 90 minutes later. After informing me that he wasn't going to be taking me, he continued by explaining that he had received a "better offer." It has been nearly 20 years, but I still feel the pain of that event. (I do take solace in the fact that my life has turned out far better than his!)
When my friend Kristie asked me to help her set up and chaperon a Special Needs Prom that she was hosting at the local high school, I jumped at the chance. I could not think of a better way for me to spend the evening than helping a friend, getting dressed up and living vicariously through these wonderful students. Students enrolled in Severe and Profound disability classes throughout the county were invited to attend.
Saturday evening I got dolled up and headed out to the prom. My going out in the evening is a rare occurrence. Actually, I can say with certainty that this was the first time I went out for the evening without Scott and/or Robby in tow. Robby apparently did not handle my absence well. He cried for nearly 30 minutes (until his Daddy took him to the park as a distraction).
After decorating and setting up everything, we were both exhausted and excited. Although the Prom was being held in a school cafeteria, we wanted to make it as special and memorable as possible. Every detail was anticipated, from providing corsages and boutonnieres for the students to my acting as the official photographer.
As the students and their escorts (in many cases their parents) filed into the cafeteria I couldn't keep the smile off my face. The girls were dressed in beautiful prom gowns, and the boys were dressed in suits or tuxedos. Even the parents got into the spirit by donning fancy dress clothes. I immediately sensed how important this event was both for the students and for their parents!
If you ever want to know what joy looks like, make somebody with a severe disability happy. The social filters that keep emotions in check are gone with this population. Squeals of joy, loud laughter and off key singing echoed through the hallways of the otherwise empty school.
Wheelchairs and walkers, leg braces and hearing aids did not garner second looks at this dance. (Even this nearing middle aged amputee didn't get a second glance!) The students were free to simply have fun and to be happy. They (or their parents) did not have to worry about blending in with their non-disabled peers. It was their Prom night, and they were going to celebrate without the pressures of fitting in.
I doubt that my high school peers had as much fun at their prom as I had Saturday night! I am so glad that I was asked to help so that I could be a part of this very special event.