Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Dancing under the Stars

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Dancing under the Stars

Article excerpt

A good old-fashioned graduation.

Celebrate! Celebrate? For parents of four "graduates " at their end of the year ceremony, it might seem that there was not a great deal to celebrate. These young adults had reached 21 and were leaving the relative security of school for a wider world with even more pitfalls and hazards. Yet, they were having a celebration. The sounds of their clapping and cheers resounded through the gym, bringing parents and friends to their feet to join in.

FOR SEVERAL YEARS, I realized that my son, David, would graduate from his special education program the same year that my daughter graduated from high school. I had been thinking about how to make his graduation special. I came up with the idea of a prom and graduation, mostly because this class had never had a fancy party I began talking about it with friends and family Then someone showed me a clipping from a Dallas newspaper about a prom for a special class there.

I sent the clipping to David's teacher at the beginning of his final year in school and received an enthusiastic response. In fact, at parent teacher conference time, she talked with other parents and enlisted a committee of interested parents to help. This was very important in our rural area because families with special children are widely scattered. We live 27 miles from the school David attends; other parents live equally far away in other directions.

Throughout David's school years, we have had little contact with other parents because of distance. A few sporadic attempts to organize support groups for discussion of common problems failed because it was just too far to go at night. Most of us managed to get to parent conferences but that was about the extent of our participation in the educational process.

PROM PLANNING

Three months before the end of the school year, we began to meet and discuss prom plans. We found that each of us had particular talents and resources to contribute. From the beginning, it seemed logical to have the prom and graduation as part of the same event. We also wanted to make sure that each student's entire family was included in the festivities. This me keeping the costs down. We divided t e responsibilities for seeking donations for the prom and were pleasantly surprised with the results. Almost everyone we approached was very enthusiastic about supporting our project. People gave us what we needed and more ! Before we actually set out to ask for donations, the classroom teacher had to clear things with the school administration. This was no problem. In fact, they offered a small amount of funding as well as the services of the school print shop and videotaping equipment.

PRE-PROM EXCITEMENT/PREPARING THE -STARS- FOR THE SPECIAL NIGHT

The prom gained a momentum of its own as we shared our successes in securing the needed supplies for the party. Although we met only once a month, we communicated actively by notes and phone calls to each other in between. We all wanted to have the students take part in preparations for the prom. At the same time, we did not want the celebration to be an extra burden to the teachers.

At an early meeting, I suggested using stars as decorations. We quickly drew up sketches and wording for invitations that were printed by the school print shop. "Dancing Under the Stars" was our theme. It was carried out in everything from the printed material through the decorations.

One mother had contacts at a radio station and offered to arrange for a disc jockey. I had been an art teacher years ago and volunteered to plan the decorations. Another mother doggedly went in search of free rental tuxedos, keeping at it until she found a men's shop that would help. The teacher had a relative who was a florist. And so it went.

By asking teachers which art supplies were still plentiful at the end of the year, I was able to plan very low cost decorations. …

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