Home > Autism in the News, In Their Own Words > A Night to Remember – Proms and Special Needs

A Night to Remember – Proms and Special Needs

Yesterday, I read this great article about Spalon Montage in Minnesota, which provided free makeovers to girls with disabilities who were attending a prom. The program was started in 2007 by Spalon’s president, Teresa Jackson, whose daughter with autism wanted to attend her prom.

Although attending the prom is considered a rite of passage for most high school students, many special needs students are not able to participate. Below are a few inspiring stories from parents in our community whose children were able to attend prom (and other formal dances) and, indeed, had a night to remember.

September 26 may have been just an ordinary Saturday in September for some, but it was an extraordinary day for a few students at Gardner Edgerton High School (GEHS) in Gardner, Kan. Erin Easley, Communications Teacher at GEHS, arranged for her communication students, along with Kristen Kearney’s life skills class, to attend the Homecoming Dance.

As the parent of two teenagers with autism, Corinne and Cameron, I wanted them to experience typical teenager opportunities such as a Homecoming Dance, but I was prepared for it never to happen. In Ms. Easley’s social skills class, the students went over how Saturday was going to be, what they would be wearing, where they would go to eat and how they would dance the night away! She even organized transportation so they could all go out to eat at Pizza Hut and then head to the dance together. Evening approached accompanied by excited nerves, as I helped Corinne and Cameron get ready for “the Big Dance” (as Corinne would say) Ms. Easley pulled up in a van full of beaming faces who were all ready for the evening. As I snapped pictures and they drove off, I thought how lucky my children are to have such wonderful, caring teachers as Ms. Easley, Ms. Kearney and Ms. Ek. Teachers who go out of their way to organize all of this on their own time, to make sure that my children get the same experience as other students, do by going out with friends and having a good time.

When the van finally returned at 11 p.m., I was so excited to see how the night went. I kept waiting for a phone call to ask me to come get them because they were ready to go, but I never got one. They made it the whole time! I met them outside and was able to still see their faces, still beaming with joy! A major milestone happened in my children’s lives that Saturday night – they attended their first high school homecoming dance!

- Submitted by Jennifer Smith-Currier of Gardner, Kan.

When our children are born, there are many milestones that we daydream about. For my family, some of our dreams for Daniel have been different than they were for his brother, Aron, and some are very much the same.  One of my dreams for Dan (and Aron – who didn’t go to his as I recall) was to have a chance to go to the senior prom.  Well, a few years ago on a Friday night, Dan went to his prom with a girl named Jacquelyn, a very special young lady – beautiful inside and out..  Jacquelyn has a brother with autism – similar to Dan – and offered to be his date. When she heard I wanted him to go, her response was, “Everyone deserves to go to prom; I’ll be his date”.

Dan and Jacquelyn both had a great time and it was a perfect evening.  As I watched him walk her to the door and give her a kiss goodnight on the cheek, I smiled through my tears of joy and knew that a dream had come true for Dan and for me. We are both still flying high.

- Submitted by Jackie Merens of Boca Raton, Fla.

I remember when Megan was about 12 and she attended her first non-family Bar Mitzvah. Megan was jumping up and down on the dance floor and having the time of her life. I recall thinking that she is entitled to experience the same rites of passage as her typical peers and I would assure that she did so. That led to a decision to have Megan become a Bat Mitzvah. Now to prom … the preparation started with selecting the appropriate dress, getting her hair, nails and makeup done and deciding who is going with who. On the day of the prom, all the kids and their parents celebrated at our house for the “pre-prom party.” The kids, of course, were transported to the prom in a black stretch limo. When they got to the prom, they hung out with their friends, danced and ate whatever junk food they could get their hands on. The most important thing for them, as well as their parents, that night is that they are treated no differently than other teenagers who just want to have fun.

- Submitted by Lisa Helfend Meyer of Los Angeles, Calif.

My son, Zach, will be attending prom again with his beautiful prom date, Megan Meyer of Encino, Calif. (referenced in the above submission). These two kids have known each other since they were about eight years old. They’re both on the autism spectrum and do several activities together including skiing in Mammoth and most recently, whitewater rafting on the Kern River! Zach thinks Megan is the prettiest girl at his school, The Help Group in Sherman Oaks, Calif., which makes her his obvious choice of dates! To insure a most magical evening, the school goes as far as teaching prom etiquette and dancing lessons several weeks prior to prom! This year’s event is themed California Dreamin’ and the two will again attend together on June 4!

- Submitted by Priscilla Picard, Autism Speaks Los Angeles Chapter Board Member

Thank you to the members of our community who shared their children’s stories and photos with us. It is my hope that every student who wants to attend a prom has the opportunity to do so, and has a positive experience. Is your child attending the prom this year? I’d love to see photos – send them to editors@autismspeaks.org.

If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

  1. May 14, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I think that is so wonderful all these stories it just brings tears to my eyes. i have a 7yr old son with autism and i know i’ll be crying like a baby when he goes to the prom.He’s my world he can’t talk but i love the way he sounds when he trys. I would like to tell all you special beauitful kids i’m so happy for you all. You all have fun at prom and have the time of your lifes. God Bless You, With Love Missa Valdepena Jones

  2. May 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    My daughter Chelsey is at a high school that has the buddy system where it pairs up reggular kids and kids with disabilites the kids get no credit but volunteer she has gone to formal twice and has had ablast we got told she was the Bomb at the prom . She sat with her buddys from the programme and had ablast more schools should try this it opens worlds up both ways

    • Tina
      May 18, 2010 at 10:30 am

      ours is called a peer to peer and we just started it at our school for my son. Instructors come to his class and talk about Autism and how it affects daily events in my sons life. Simple things like being first in line and how hard soccer is for someone with autism and all the rules that change as the game goes on. Its a work in progress so far.

    • Kathy Kroenung
      May 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm

      Hey Jill! So glad to see the buddy program is working at your school. I’m trying to set up a buddy program at my daughter’s grade school. Do you have any contacts they I could get a hold of to get more info on how their program is structured? Thanks a bunch!!! Kathy

  3. cyndi rice
    May 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    When I read the story from Jackie Merens of Boca Raton, FL. it touched me deeply. I too have an autistic son, Kevin who is 16. Jacquelyn is a very special person. Thank you Jacquelyn for just being who you are. cyndi rice, rockledge, PA

  4. May 14, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Evidently the Autism Speaks blogger didn’t read the stories — each one was a success story about how young people with autism can be supported by friends, by family and by their teachers and supporters so that they can attend dances and proms with their age appropriate peers. Yet the introduction to the stories emphasized the notion the individuals with autism “can’t” participate in the same activities as other young people. Not true. We need to spend more time emphasizing how like other students young people with autism are and less time focusing on how “different” and “unable” they might be — “disabledism” may be good for fund raising, but it’s bad for public relations and policy development.

  5. Andy Rey
    May 17, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Reading these stories only give me hope that when my little brother, Antonio, gets old enough that he will be able to experience prom like I was able to. I was 15 years old when my amazing brother was born and was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Now that I am 25 years old, I have seen so many amazing of the things my brother has been able to do in such a young life and along with these stories, I have hope that he will be able to attend his own senior prom and share in the same time honored tradition that me and his other siblings have and will be able to enjoy.

  6. Audrey Castillo
    May 17, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    These stories are fabulous. I, too have a contribution.

    We have an “Autism Gym” in our area and they put together a “family” prom for students of all ages. My son is 10 and has PDD-NOS. He attended along with his 4-year old sister, my husband & me. I remember seeing him all dressed up in a jacket and tie and how he danced and smiled the whole time. It was truly a night to remember and cherish. I think it’s awesome what these organizations can do for these kids so they can just be kids.

  7. Tina
    May 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

    These stories bring tears to my eyes. I have a 9 yr old with ASD and often wonder about prom or even marriage for him. I am lucky we have an older son whom I know will always look out for his younger brother but there are some things that cannot be shared. I hope my son is lucky enough to be able to attend prom and other special events throughout his school years. I also hope his peers will continue to accept him and help him as he continues his school journey.

  8. Debbie Larkin
    May 20, 2010 at 2:22 am

    My son, Hunter, will be attending the Help Group prom for the Fifth time with the same young lady. I never dared to dream he’s be able to attend one prom let alone Five! Amazing things are possible and we are so proud of him and all the other kids.

  9. Hal
    May 21, 2010 at 5:14 am

    I will always impress on parents of Autism to allow and promote normalcy. It is such a treat to see my grandson react so positively to something that most take for granted.

  10. Daphine Rodgers
    May 25, 2010 at 10:38 am

    My son is 18 years old, going on prom and graduating from high school this year. Lately, he has been a challenge: so emotional, stubborn and self-willed. I’m really puzzled how to help him. He’s never been like this before. He usually so sweet, caring, concern and such a charming person. I don’t know where this attitude derived from. I need some suggestions.

  11. Deborah Baker
    May 25, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Hey I am a mother of four boys the youngest has ASD when he get nervous he get a little out of hand. I can just imagine what you son is going through . My oldest son is 17 and going to the Jr. Prom ,taking the SAT looking for a college and he is going crazy. This is a big part of there life it can be a much for any kid at this age. DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY. When I read or hear any story about a ASD child making any new steps I’m happy.

  12. ileana morales
    June 2, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    HI!. MY NAME IS ILEANA MORALES, I HAVE A 17 YEAR OLD AUTISTIC TEEN, HIS NAME IS DAVID.HE WAS DIAGNOSED AT THE AGE OF 7-.UNTIL HE WAS 10 YEARS OLD, ALL HE SAID WAS MAMA, PAPA AND “TOY”. SOMETHING HAPPENED WHEN HE TURNED 11, HE BECAME HIGH FUNCTIONING, HE WOULDN’T STOP TALKING ( AND WE WERE SO HAPPY ABOUT THAT), HE WAS NO LONGER SHY,HE STARTED DOING GREAT AT SCHOOL, I WAS SO HAPPY.-BUT WHEN HE TURNED 16 ( AND THE HORMONES KICKED IN) EVERYTHING CHANGED. HE WANTED FRIENDS, A GIRLFRIEND, HE TRIED TO MAKE FRIENDS AT SCHOOL. THAT’S WHEN HE REALIZED HE WAS DIFFERENT . DAVID TURNED FROM A SWEET BOY TO AN AGGRESSIVE TEENAGER, HE EVEN STARTED HURTING HIMSELF,ANYTHING HE COULD FIND, IF HE WAS EATING HE’LL TAKE THE FORK AND STARTED POKING HIMSELF, OR HE WOULD TAKE A KNIFE OR A SCISSOR.HE WOULD BITE HIMSELF HARD.( he never did this before) .HE KICKED AND PUNCH DOORS.HE CRYED AND SAY:”MOM I HAVE NO FRIENDS, I’LL NEVER HAVE A GRILFRIEND”.HE WAS FRUSTRATED AND SO WAS I. I WAS DESPERATE. I ENROLLED HIM IN THE BEST BUDDIES PROGRAM.BUT AFTER EVERY OUTING, HE WOULD COME HOME MORE DEPRESSED, HE WOULD SAY: “REGULAR KIDS DON’T WANT TO TALK TO ME”. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.- ONE DAY, TALKING TO ROSA (THE MOTHER OF ONE OF DAVIDS CLASSMATES) WE DECIDED TO OPEN A CLUB. ROSA CELEBRATED HER DAUGHTER MELISSA, SWEET SIXTEEN PARTY, THEY WERE SO HAPPY, THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT WHAT THEY WERE GOING TO WEAR, EVEN THE TEACHERS AT SCHOOL WERE TEACHING THEM HOW TO DANCE, THEY HAD A BLAST. THE FOLLOWING FRIDAY I TOOK MY VAN, AND ROSA AND I TOOK 7 HIGH FUNCTIONING TEENS TO “HANG OUT”, WE WENT TO THE MOVIES ( THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME THEY WENT TO THE MOVIES WITH FRIENDS), THEY WOULDN’T STOP TALKING AND LAUGHING; THEY WERE BEING TEENAGERS. AND ROSA AND I WERE CRYING OF HAPPINESS.NOW WE GO OUT EVERY FRIDAY. DAVID AND HIS FRIENDS ARE NOT AGGRESSIVE ANYMORE; THEY ARE TOO BUSY PLANNING THE NEXT FRIDAY OUTING.
    THERE IS A LOT OF HELP FOR LITTLE KIDS BUT THEY ARE FORGETTING THAT OUR KIDS ARE BECOMING TEENAGERS WITH ALL OF THEIR TEENS NEEDS..- OUR TEENS NEED HELP, THEY LACK SOCIAL SKILLS, THEY HAVE NO FRIENDS THEY FEEL LONELY. AS THE MOTHER OF AN AUTISTIC TEEN, I CAN TELL YOU THAT THEY SUFFER AND SO DO WE.
    I WANT TO SHARE THIS WITH EVERY MOTHER. OUR LITTLE CLUB IS WORKING, WE WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IT GROW. WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE 100’S OF TEENS HAVING FUN….JUST BEING TEENAGERS.

  13. Morgie Porgie :)
    August 13, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Morgan :My brother and sister (twins) have autism… they always are saying that they want to be a vet and a fire fighter… I’ll sit there and think ok so are they really going to be able run and spray a fire and rescue people…. and are they going to be able to give animals shots and put them down…I always thought autistic children couldn’t go to prom or any big events in high school… well that just shows that God is telling us we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us…My brother just enterd a new school and this girl came up to him and said Hayden… I really like you….knowing that he’s an autistic 8 year old he ran off…hahahah! but that day when they were leaving to go home… my mom pulled up at the school, Hayden says momma look the other way…. turns out his “friend” was satnding over there and she looked over and screamed BY HAYDEN I’LL SEE YOU TOMORROW!!! and that just made his day…

  14. Anonymous
    December 16, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    I am a 14 year old male with high functioning autism. I am actually embarassed to admit this. My autism is well control, yet I wish that I was not as shy. Because of this, I have become depressed and with little friends. Right now tears are running down my cheek. What do I do to become socially outgoing and gain high self- esteem.

  15. Anonymous
    December 16, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I also feel like I will never get a girlfreind because of my autism.

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