Autism, a special occasion, and one step at a time.

by Jennifer Dyer

It’s that time of year again–The Special Needs prom. Each year some amazing women from our church, along with many other generous people, put on a wonderful evening of fun and food for the special needs community in our area.

This year’s theme was TX, and the decorating team outdid themselves.

As this is a long-standing event in our community, I wanted our family to be a part.

Frosting taste tester.

Friday and Saturday, Rachel and I worked on baking cupcakes. Although she thought it was her birthday again, she still had fun.


I also took Rachel with me to the decorating “party” on Friday night. I knew I wouldn’t get much done–we managed to hang ONE star on the wall–but I knew it would be so ahead of time. My goal wasn’t to be hugely productive. My goal was to show Rachel what it means to be a part of something in several stages.

Did that bother me? Yes. I love this event and want to contribute my share to the scores of hardworking volunteers. Plus, it felt odd to be there and not be “helping,” but I want Rachel to learn how to be a part of something bigger than she is. To do that, I have to take things one step at a time.


After we did our big huge star hanging job, Rachel retreated to a dark stairwell, which meant I had to stand there and keep an eye on her. My heart sank as the others climbed on ladders, ferried giant TX flags and worked themselves into a frenzy to transform a drab gym into a Texas wonderland.

But then something wonderful happened. A young man said hello to me. He held the ladder for one of my friends and handed her pieces of tape with undying patience. He held out his hand, told me his name, and said, “I have autism.” He went on to tell me he’d been helping his mom with the prom for ten years and made sure he did a very good job decorating because it’s a very important event.

He then said hello to Rachel. She waved at him–actually at the wall to the right of him–but he tried to make conversation with her too, explaining that he also had autism.

It. Was. Beautiful.

I think that conversation was most of the reason I was there that night. To see what an amazing young man he has become. To see what kind of hope there is for Rachel in the future. To see what one step at a time can do for a person.

Someday that might be Rachel. Someday we might hang two decorations, then four, then ten, then be able to help make them. Someday she might hold a ladder and introduce herself to a young person with autism and give their mother a big ray of hope.

The young man’s mom also talked to me and introduced me to his brother, which I think should be another blog. They had lots of great advice…

Anyway, the prom itself was beautiful. Rachel danced some and sat some. I think her favorite part was drinking the lemonade. We saw several people from our Special Olympics sports groups, but Rachel was quite confused to see them at her party. And I found out my 8-year-old nephew is a dancing machine. Wish I’d gotten a video.

Seeing the families and friends at the dance touched my heart. Friends and moms danced with wheelchairs. Young adults danced and laughed without worrying who watched them. No one fretted in the corner and no one worried about being left out. There is something pure and beautiful about being in a room with people who love you for who you are, not for what you are wearing or any of the other reasons we judge people.
Thanks to my sweet friends who give so many months of their lives to this event. You know who you are. And you are special to us!
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5 thoughts on “Autism, a special occasion, and one step at a time.

  1. It is truly a magical thing that our church has been a part of for several years. Thanks to the kitchen crew as well as those that helped make the decorations and bring food. Thanks you to the super people who decorated and those that took it all down afterwards. Well done!!!

    1. y que haz hecho? Es super fome, porque inamtiademente nos ponemos a pensar en algo bakán o digno de contar que hayamos hecho, cosa que no siempre ocurre y te corta toda la inspiración al momento de conversar.

    2. Good. Unnamed sources say Jets ownership has banned Gamble from talking with anyone from SF for fear they’ll get snookered like Andy Reid did. The sources are un-named because they don’t exist and I just made that whole thing up. Jack’s report though is likely true; well maybe, it did come from Mortensen…….

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