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Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Dance!

Last Thursday night, Janey's school had a dance for the junior high school students.  Her teacher encouraged me to take Janey to it, and I decided to.  If there is anything in this world Janey enjoys doing, it's dancing.  It combines jumping around and music and laughing, all favorites of her.  And she's good at it.  She picks up moves from watching dancers on TV, or just figures them out on her own.  She's approximately 1000% better a dancer than I ever was.

Janey and her wonderful teacher at the dance
I tried to dress Janey up more for the dance, but she knew what she wanted.  She was happy to wear a dress (the one she wanted was probably too short for school, but she let me put a skirt under it), but she drew the line at fancy shoes.  She wanted her old, dirty Crocs, and I gave in.  I tried to get her to wear a necklace, and put all kinds of them on her to try, but she wasn't interested.  The aide at school that does Janey's hair much better than I can almost every day did a nice 'do for her, and Janey left part of it in at home after school, but she won't let me put in any fancy barrettes or anything.  So---basically she was like most teens would be when their mother tried to tell them what to wear.

Tony and I got Janey to the dance right on time, and found that most of her class was already there too!  That was great.  A girl in Janey's class greeted her, looking lovely, and it was a lot of fun once we got into the gym to see other of her classmates all dressed up.  This dance was for all the junior high kids, not just those with autism, and gradually more of the regular ed kids came too.  They had a supper, one that usually Janey would love (pizza, chips and soda!) but Janey was not in the mood to eat.  She was in the mood to DANCE!  She danced from the second we got in the room.

Tony and I had pretty much decided to sit on the sidelines and be ready to get Janey if she got ready to go.  The dance was from 6-8:30, and Janey generally goes to bed around 7 or 7:30, so we weren't sure how long she'd last.  But Janey came up to us after only about 20 minutes and said "Want to go away?"---pushing me toward the door.  I got the message loud and clear---we were cramping her style.  I don't know if she noticed the other kids mostly didn't have parents with them, or if it was just her usual dislike of her separate worlds of school and home mixing.  I asked her teacher if it was okay for us to go sit in our car in the parking lot, where she could text us as soon as Janey had had enough, and she said sure.  I adore her teacher!  She is so upbeat and looked so happy to just be there with her students.  Special ed teachers are some of the most amazing people on this earth.

Janey joyfully dancing!
Tony and I barely knew what to do alone in the car.  We played with our phones, talked, napped and marveled at the time going by without a call.  Finally, at around 8, Tony went in to get Janey or at least see how she was going.  Just as he got out, I got a text from her teacher that she was ready to go.  She had danced for 2 hours straight, and Tony said they told her that she got upset at one point when the DJ took a break, so they had to put on some more music!  She was so happy in the car going home, and she certainly slept well!

The dance is a perfect example of the kind of inclusion I wish there was much, much more of.  It's a "regular" event, something kids of Janey's age do, and including Janey and her classmates did involve I'm sure some extra supervision and planning, but it worked.  I think many more events could be make accessible like this one.  If Janey had someone to keep an eye on her and give her a break when she needed it, she could do many things---go to camp, go in the city and hang out, go to concerts, be part of teams---lots of things.  And I think it would cost less money and resources than it would to set up "special needs" events. It would benefit kids like Janey, and it would benefit the other kids, in seeing that Janey and others like her are not that different than them. 

You might say---why don't we as parents just take her to all those things?  Well, a couple reasons.  One, Janey showed herself at the dance.  When you were in your teens, would you have wanted your parents with you at all times?  Unless you are quite unusual, probably not.  And...we are tired.  Every single moment that Janey isn't in school, she is with us.  Always.  Tony and I getting to just sit in that car---it's the most time we've had alone in a LONG time.

Thank you to Janey's school for holding the dance, to her teacher and her aides for being there, and to Janey---for delighting us with her dancing, her enthusiasm and her joy.

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