If Life Were a Special Needs Prom

It’s prom season! Girls are picking out dresses and posting photos on Instagram. We’ve had our share of prom events in our family as well, but they are a tad different. I have two sons with special needs. They are 18 and juniors in High School. Their freshman year, we were introduced to the Special Needs Prom. It is hosted each spring by a different high school in our district.

Each dance is a magical experience for everyone who attends. I have learned many lessons from this event that could be applied to life in general.  If we could all just live our lives like we were at a Special Needs Prom, we would find ourselves happier and more centered.


Lesson #1: Some things are worth the extra effort

Walking into our first prom, we were blown away. I kept looking at my husband in awe. Was this really all for the kids? It was incredible!! It was a jungle theme and the cafeteria was decorated to the nines. Someone had thought those kids were worth every flower, vine and butterfly. Someone had thought my boys were worth covering the stairs with blue and brown butcher paper to create waterfalls (with cascading bubbles). Someone didn’t think they were deserving of the regular kids’ sloppy seconds. Someone thought they deserved their own décor. And it was magnificent. It reminded me that sometimes simple isn’t the right way to go. Sometimes it’s good to go the extra mile. Don’t phone life in. Go all out; give it your all. It’s a great way to show love. And believe me, there was a lot of love in that room.


Lesson #2: Dance like no one is watching!

The best dancing happens at the Special Needs Prom. Even kids in wheelchairs get down and boogie to the latest Justin Timberlake song (Because, seriously. Just try NOT to dance to the song of the summer). My son Derick twerked before any of us had heard of Miley. And, it’s totally more appropriate. And cute. No one cares who is watching. No one cares what they look like. We all just have rhythm bursting out of our pores. It is nothing but pure joy on the dance floor. When you don’t care what anyone else thinks of you, life is just better!


Lesson #3: No one is more important than anyone else

This year, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders came to our prom. Oh, it was fun. And the parents were all duly impressed. But the kids? The kids danced with the cheerleaders, but as soon as they left, the kids just kept on dancing. They didn’t skip a beat. We didn’t need professional dancers to ramp up our party. Those kids have as much fun dancing with each other and their families as they do with the prettiest girls in Texas (and yes, they really are).


Lesson #4: Beauty is only skin deep

There is no beauty like that on display at prom. The girls are dressed up. The boys have tuxes and bow-ties and even hats! The purity of their beauty outshines the rest of the world, I’m convinced. The truth is, we are all more beautiful when our inner light radiates out. I know that’s clichéd, but in my 40+ years of life, I have seen it time and again. A pretty mean girl isn’t pretty for long. I’ve seen plenty of those inside and outside of the church. You can dress up a mean girl, but she’s never going to be as beautiful as the girl who wears a turquoise prom dress and ties a big matching bow on the back of her wheelchair. That’s pure beauty, folks!


Lesson #5: Kindness is always the right choice

You know how Disneyland is the happiest place on earth? I believe that is true. And also the temple. And also the Special Needs Prom. No one fights at Disneyland. And no one fights at prom, either. That same ‘pixie-dust’ is sprinkled on the dance floor. People are serving each other all night. Everyone is kind. The teachers, the regular–ed students, the Life Skills students, the families. People are so full of love that they have no room for anything but kindness. It’s like being bathed in the spirit all night. With really good music. When Pharrell sings “Happy”, everyone really is. There’s nothing but love, people. It is glorious.



Have you been to a prom as special as this? How was it? What lessons have you learned from the special people in your life?

Author profile

Rochelle likes teenagers a LOT. She teaches a class of 25 of them every morning in seminary. And she lives with 4 of them. She loves her husband. She's a happy person. The End.

You Might Also Like

  • Michelle Lehnardt
    May 18, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    OK, I was doing just fine until I watched the video– and then, tears. So, so beautiful. Thank you!

    And I love the five points. Love love love.

  • Chanda Nielsen
    May 19, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Winner! I was just thinking about “point one” last week and our bookclub. I’m struggling to find enough ladies here who want to put the effort it, but it’s what always made for such a lovely experience. Sometimes it’s worth it!

  • Grace Tallmadge
    May 22, 2016 at 10:27 am

    I loved the video. Ethan and Derick are a huge blessing in our lives

  • Brian Herrian
    June 14, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    The proms were exactly as you described them. Thank you for reminding us about perspective.