Home > In Their Own Words > In Their Own Words – The Prom that Almost Wasn’t

In Their Own Words – The Prom that Almost Wasn’t

This “In Their Own Words” was submitted by Cynthia Drucker, whose son has autism.

Brandon, who is now 19 years old, went to his senior prom, but it almost didn’t happen. I wrote the following (edited for content) and e-mailed it to news stations. Minutes later, I received a call from one of those stations.

Brandon, age 18, graduates with a special diploma from high  school this year. He has made many friends in this school. Brandon enjoys making new friends and staying in touch with them on the phone. He was excited to purchase the yearbook to have the friends sign it. Brandon neglected to attend a class he was scheduled to be in. He “skipped” class. He was looking for more friends to sign his yearbook. He can not tell time. He doesn’t understand the passage of time. The principal suspended Brandon for two days because of this action, as well as prohibiting him from attending his senior prom, which is just two days away. Her claim is “if he can’t be trusted to be where he is supposed to be, then how can we trust him to remain in the designated area of the prom?”

I pleaded with the principal to allow Brandon to go to senior prom. My pleas went unnoticed. Feeling it was hopeless, I cancelled Brandon’s tux rental. I don’t know if it was family outreach, prayer requests, local news stations, or numerous e-mails to newspapers that made a difference. But moments later I received a call from the principal. She said that it had been arranged for Brandon to attend the prom with a teacher escort. His  personal chaperone would be with him at all times. The news stations cancelled their story, since it had a happy ending.

Brandon attended his senior prom, dateless, and he had the best time!

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. 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. Barbara Pons
    July 2, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Awesome!!! I am so happy he was able to attend the prom and had a great time!! If it wasn’t for you fighting for him this would have never happened. Great Job!! For the school, it is very disappointing that they displayed this behavior. I just don’t know why schools arent more understanding and want the best for these children. Congrats!!!

  2. Lisa Allen
    July 2, 2010 at 10:08 am

    It’s examples like this that illustrate the lack of education that school staff have with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our kids are constantly being “taught lessons”, and at their expense. More mandatory training is required for all teachers!

    • Jeremy
      July 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm

      I agree with you, that specialized training would help but who’s paying for it? It’s not free, and I doubt there are enough specialists around that offer services at no charge for every school board in the country to utilize. I think a better approach is to add special behavioral provisions into the student Individual Education Plan that would allow school officials a way to provide for the student without breaking policy.

    • Star
      March 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      I’m sorry that this family had such a difficult time; however, please do not be so quick to judge the schools/teachers. I am a mother of an autistic child AND a public school teacher who has successfully taught many students with autism and Asperger’s. My son has never had issues at his school, nor have I had any problems with the students in my classes. They are not neglected nor are they ‘taught lessons’. If your particular school is not handling your child successfully, step up and advocate. Do not presume that all teachers are uneducated about autism and unwilling to help.

  3. Shelly Diamond
    July 2, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I am so glad Brandon got to attend his prom! All the hard work that got him there made him DESERVE to be there so much! My son is 17 and has had a real difficult time in highschool. He has Aspergers. The fight I have had on my hands with the school to keep him there and for them not to give up on him has been very frustrating and there has been alot of tears on my part! Now I have to find virtual education for him cos they are done with us! Brandon made it and so deserved to be at his prom! Way to go Brandon!!!

  4. Cheryl Sanders
    July 2, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I’m SO glad that the principal reconsidered. I know that my son would be devastated if he were told he could not go to prom: he’s only in 8th grade but is already talking about it.

    And a big thanks to the teacher that stepped up to be his chaperone, allowing Brandon to attend.

  5. Martha Lange
    July 2, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I would request to have the principal removed from the school. She should know better, her job is to encourage the kids, she should of come up with a solution on her own. I am sure that the Newspaper called her and let her know what was going on, I am sure she then KNEW that her job would be in danger, should the problem escalate. Really do we parents want people like her running our schools? The joy of a principal comes on graduation day, when they see all these students file down the aisle and they see what a difference they made in their life. She obviously didn’t care about that, she must of been one of those Teachers that hated her job, but was just good at it and was able to climb the educational latter to get her where she is now. How she made it to principal I would like to know. She needs to grow a heart and use it sometimes, instead of the brain. I am happy that Brandon was able to go to the prom. As for me I would not have let that die down, just for the fact that there are going to be other children with Autism going to her school. She needs to go to some training classes so she can learn how to deal with special children. Really I am upset by her actions.

  6. Michelle
    July 2, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I want to know why the principle didn’t make arrangements to have an escort for him in school? Why wait till Prom to take this action? Why not solve the problem before it came to her “discipline”? Lots of Autistic individuals have trouble with time and places. This did not “just show up”. Principle should have “discipline” action set for her.

  7. cyndi whitten
    July 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    my son reacted to a boy who pulled my sons pants down in a gym… he pushed the boys down. The principal gave him 3 days of suspension for “fighting” and he didnt let him attend his 8th grade dance which was 2 days away, 2 soccer games, the last awards ceremony of the National Junior Honor Society (which he was in and his younger brother was being inducted into) and also to the celebration afterwards.
    It was awful and is still a bad memory for us all.

  8. Sandra Kaye
    July 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Look at this beautiful young mans face and tell me what you see? Lots of love and support from the people who love him the most!!! God Bless you, sweet young man! I hope your world is colorful and more rich than anything money can buy! and God Bless his family! so good to hear that he is so well loved by his peers & that he has achieved that worrisome goal of making friends. I hope life is soooo good to you!!!!!

  9. Sandra Kaye
    July 2, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    and too, i think this so called principal should have to take classes, as well as many other schools too, as to what involves a child or young person that has autism. people who really do not understand should not act like they know it all. they should learn it all! these children of ours are special, thats why we get SOOOOOOO mad at these injustices!

  10. Barbara Pons
    July 2, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I agree with Michelle…..that is so true!!! Im sure this wasn’t the first time. He should have had someone with him if he wonders off easily. That pricipal should be disciplined!!!

  11. Sandra Kaye
    July 2, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    and i meant to say they are special, not just “special needs”. if you want to learn more about autism, why not try a hands on approach? it will open your eyes to many a way …… THEIR way!

  12. Jeremy
    July 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I’m sort of disappointed the new channel didn’t run the story anyway. A happy ending shouldn’t cause this type of story from being pre-empted in favor of a spot about adopting lost puppies.

    Not being directly involved, I’d prefer not to pass judgement on the principal without knowing the motives. This may have been the school board tying her hands, and sometimes it’s trying to prevent the perception that they are “playing favorites”. Not that it is an acceptable excuse, but I imagine a judge would feel the same way when passing sentencing. Principals in public schools are sometimes caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place; Some handle it well, this one didn’t.

  13. Esteleen Westby
    July 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    The school used his disability against him. As if the school does not have an I.E.P. or document that clearly states he does not tell time…. Disgusting.

  14. Jen
    July 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    This sounds like a terrible misunderstanding to me. I think a breakdown in communication has occurred. Safety is alaways the top priority of any individual working with children. I do agree that a plan needed to be in place as these kinds of challenges need to be anticipated so our behaviour, as educators, is proactive rather than reactive. Also, the consequence seems drastic. How many other children skipped a class this year…are they attending grad? I agree that more education is definately needed for all educators working with students with autism but I would like to believe the principal is thinking about the students future, his safety, and his responsibility to his community. The world of special needs is rarely this black and white.

  15. nichole
    July 3, 2010 at 1:28 am

    Amen to all the strong people out there. Idk much about any of it. Up untill 4yrs ago I knew even less than I do now. My stepdaughter has asperbers, and b4 her I didn’t have a clue about it. I barely knew what autism was. I would love. To say I taught her something, but in all truth; she taught me more than I could ever teach her. I still don’t know a lot about autism, but I do know her. I think we have taught eachother so much. She is now 15 ang going into 10th grade. I have 2 give major props 2 our small,but awsome school system. Even more 2 her. I can honestly say I couldn’t love her anymre if I woulda birtherd her myself. She has grown so much. Not just into a youngwoman,but mentally. She has taught me and my 30 younger children 2 leamn and understand pele who aren’t the same as us. That doesn’t mean we are better than them, by far. Truth be told they are better than we are. I reay want 2 say thank you 2 every one who is smarter than me, and 2 al those who have the courage 2 do what is right. Idk if I woulda been strong enough 2 do that b4 I met kristi. Now I know I would fight 4 her, the same as I would my own blood. Not just because I love her and heR dad, but because I do understand enough, and to do what is right. Fight the good fight all you parents! I am proud to stand with you, weather you think I belong or not. I know what is right and I love all my children!

  16. Dawn
    July 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    sadly, educators are often the least supportive and understanding in my experience. they have their mind set on how things should be and that’s it, anything different is wrong. I was recently pulled aside by our school admin. and basically told I’m a terrible parent because my child had a mild melt down comparable to the average child child I see DAILY at this school. I was really stuck on what I could say to her because I was in shock. I’m glad this principle was forced to change her mind. I wish it were compassion and understanding that led her to change her mind but it was forced by the thought of bad publicity. What a horrible person. It’s a shame that the news channels did not continue their coverage and expose what most of us parents and students have to face all the time, rigidness and complete lack of understanding by those in the education system. At times i wonder why they are in the positions they’re in.

  17. Zia
    July 4, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I wish people really understood these kids process information differently and see things differently than what we do. They are misunderstood. My grandson, age 8, has Asperger’s. He is constantly teaching us things rather than us teaching him things. We understand him and we take the time to read information on Asperger’s so that we find ways to understand him to help him adjust in this society. People need to be educated as well as school officials/educators.

  18. kelly ivanoff
    July 5, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I am so proud of all the parents with autistic children who stand up and speak out and rally. You go.

    I ended up calling The Board of Education when my son was in school, can’t remember what grade now but he was in high school.

    Ended up having a very good law suit which I decided not to go through with as I had other kids in same school. I did manage to “clean up” though for parents with kids of disabilities, I did not want them to go through what I went through.

    My advice to parents: Be involved in the schooling, know your rights, continue to fight for those rights, listen to what other kids are saying, that’s how I found out the abuse going on in my school.

    I call it abuse cuz that is what it was, they swept my son under the rug and he paid for it emotionally and physically. His teacher was unfit to teach him and this was a “special” kids teacher!

    If you don’t fight for them no one else will!

    Good luck to all you parents, I am standing behind you, my son is almost 27 and is still a bright light in my life. He is very frustrating now that he is an adult but always a joy.

  1. July 2, 2010 at 8:19 pm

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