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Why Special Needs Students Should Go to Regular Prom

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
06/01/18  9:25 AM PST

My son, Alex went to high school prom this year. Man was he excited, it seems like prom was all we talked about for weeks ahead of time and days after. But like many things in Alex’s life, prom was different.

Alex got dressed up in his shirt, tie and trousers on a Friday morning, and took the bus to school. For him, prom took place during the school day, at the Eagles hall, and was especially for him and his friends in the special education program at school. This was a prom just for the students with intellectual disabilities.

There was a huge part of me that was thrilled for him. He danced the day away, got a corsage and limo rides, and had the time of his life. Alex wanted to go, and I wanted him to go. The flip side of that coin is that inclusion in any real sense of the word still isn’t feasible for many individuals with intellectual disabilities, neither in school nor in the community.

As I watched my son get ready for prom that morning, helping him with his tie and making sure his hair was just so, my feelings were mixed. My son was over the moon about his big day, and I didn’t want to take that from him for anything in the world. Yet, with everything in me, I believe that he shouldn’t have to accept a substitute prom, or anything else for that matter.

I find myself vacillating between recognizing and appreciating the path that has been laid before us by individuals and families with intellectual disabilities and dismay over how much work is left to be done. Their efforts have paved the way out of dark and dismal times and created space for people like my sons with Down syndrome to get education, work and independence, yet still on such a limited basis. It is incumbent upon us to continue to blaze ahead and carve out more space in the community, more acceptance, and greater understanding and acceptance of people with cognitive impairments.

For this to happen, we need to recognize that people with intellectual disabilities belong at the regular prom, not a segregated substitute. While I accept that, for now, my son enjoyed the prom experience and I appreciate the effort that went into making it happen, I pledge to do my part to bridge the gap so that the norm is for every student to be expected and accepted at the regular prom, and the community at large. My vision is for the next generation not to even consider whether or how to include people with cognitive impairments, but for it to already be done. My role is to clear the path with my son, and to walk alongside him on it as far as he can go. The hope is that those who follow behind might clear the path further yet.

I fully understand the accommodations which must be made for this to succeed. After all, accommodating my sons has been my full-time job their whole lives. I also know how totally worthwhile it is to make the accommodations and watch them succeed.


Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom

Follow her on Facebook


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