Unexpected Opportunity: The Joys of Junior Prom

Unexpected Opportunity: The Joys of Junior Prom

By New Hope Parent, Denise Irons

For me, the unexpected, whether good or bad, is usually met with emotional paralysis. I need time to digest the information. As I pause to contemplate the situation, I try to not respond immediately. Recently, my daughter’s teacher asked my opinion about her attending the high school’s Junior Prom. As excited as I was to discover attending prom was a possibility, the fears rushed forward to dampen my joy. Would she be safe? Would she be accepted? Would she feel included? Would she have fun? Would she dance?

I decided that my daughter had the right to make the decision, and she wanted to attend Junior Prom. Once the decision was made, I wholeheartedly committed to supporting her choice. Luckily, we were visiting the grandparents during spring break. They live in the South, where prom season is serious business. The dresses are beautiful, extravagant, and dramatic. We started with simple dresses. When my daughter came out of the dressing room, I was shocked by her beauty, grace, confidence, and presence. She looked and acted as if trying on formal dresses was a routine occurrence. Although these first dresses were lovely, they were not quite right. “Sparkles” was her only request regarding a dress. The following day, our search led us to a formal dress shop. The selection of dresses was overwhelming, but making choices came easily. The gowns were gorgeous and sophisticated. My daughter looked and felt like a princess. Being able to share the moment with her grandmother as well made the experience even more special. Because of the exorbitant cost, we did not purchase a gown from the boutique. However, we discovered her style, taste, and size. The right dress was easily found online and ordered. The gown fit her perfectly with the length being the only alteration needed.

When the day of prom finally arrived, everyone involved radiated love, joy, community, and gratitude. Some of my daughter’s support arrived in-person while others arrived electronically. Their collective happiness and pride were palpable. So many people have shared their wisdom, encouragement, and hope that helped my daughter become the exceptional young lady that she is today. I was incredibly grateful to share this moment with all of them as they rallied around her.

The significance of her attending the high school’s Junior Prom was not overlooked. My daughter was the only one in her special needs cohort who attended. How amazing that she was welcomed and encouraged to attend. Her best friend was her date. My daughter’s bestie has been a true friend for the past three years. She is an extraordinary young lady, and acceptance and inclusion is interwoven into her character. The bond she and my daughter share is incredibly strong, and I anticipate it to continue after graduation.

This experience gives me hope that traditions are changing and acceptance is increasing. Seeing pictures of my daughter with her classmates at the dance was encouraging. I am impressed and grateful for the teachers and parents who foster inclusion and support friendships. I never expected my daughter to attend prom. After the diagnosis, I did not anticipate that she would attend any of the school dances. Yet, once again my daughter proved how capable she is. I admire her tenacity and confidence. I am impressed with the friendships that she has developed and sustained. Furthermore, I am grateful to everyone who has opened their hearts and overlooked labels and stereotypes. Prom was an incredibly fun and a momentous high school experience for my daughter and her tribe. Goodness exists, and that night, it made many dreams come true.

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One Comment

  1. Elizabeth Ratliff April 30, 2024 at 9:02 pm

    Denise, I greatly enjoyed your story! It was expressed very well and gave reality to some of the concerns we parents have.

    I don’t know if you remember me, but we met at a meeting for families at NH in early March of 2020 before Covid hit and the world semi-shut down.

    Thank you for sharing this story and the absolutely lovely pictures of your adorable daughter!!

    Betty R.

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