Friday night Daniel was invited to an all abilities dance sponsored by CADSA (Capitol Area Down Syndrome Association). This was the second annual dance in recognition of Down Syndrome awareness month, but the first time for Daniel to attend! My friend Amy from Life According to Emma and Joe blog was one of the coordinators and she did a fantastic job! It was a Mardi Gras theme, which is perfect for Daniel, purple is involved!
A few nights before the dance I mentioned to Todd that maybe we should ask Daniel if he knows how to slow dance with another person. I thought it may come up, and wanted to give him a quick tutorial. The night before the dance, Todd came down from Daniel's room with a big smile on his face. He had asked him if he knew how to slow dance. Daniel's response was "sure" and stood up with his hands up, moving in super slow motion. Literally, dancing slowly. I wish I had a video of Todd showing me this. I was laughing until I cried. It was honestly the most adorable, sweet thing. But Todd showed him how to simply put your hands on a girls waist and sort of shuffle side to side to the music. I will never look at slow dancing the same way again.
One thing that they did a great job with is just getting the word out! They contacted classrooms all over to get the dance advertised to all ages and all abilities. The teachers were wonderful and kept telling the kids about it and passed out fliers to bring home. The result was a wide variety of kids. Kudos! That is a lot of work. The other thing Amy decided to do was find volunteers to chaperon. I decided to ask our friend Amanda, who was one of Daniel's fabulous swim coaches last spring. We continued to work with her throughout the summer. She is a great swimmer and has that gentle knack to get Daniel to do things that I never ever could. In short, she is wonderful.
Amanda agreed to chaperon. Amy's idea was, especially for the older kids, for everyone to have dance partners that AREN'T their parents. For the most part, I think most of the kids are happy to be out dancing as a group, and just having fun. I wasn't really prepared for the transformation that happened because of this set up. Amanda was obviously a partner for Daniel (and others if they needed it). I brought Daniel to the dance, which was at our local community center. (close to our house!) not sure what to expect. The invitation said "Sunday best", so I made Daniel change into a collared shirt from his usual t shirt. He put on a purple. I must admit, this was a happy accident. I hadn't connected the Mardi Gras to purple at the time, but he looked good.
We arrived to the community center, and waited in line to pay. The music was filtering down the hall. Daniel was excited. I could tell by the way he was shifting his weight back and forth, using his now 6 ft size to peer over the top of people into the room. When the line wasn't moving (at all) I told Daniel to go check out the room while I waited to pay. At that moment I saw Amanda walk by the door dressed to the nines in a sparkly black dress. She looked amazing! She is a beautiful girl, but we usually see her with a swim cap on and Speedo swim suit. It's just not the same!
After Daniel found her they came out to say hello to me. By the look on Daniel's face I could tell that he was feeling as though he hit the lottery BIG TIME! He LOVES a pretty girl. Autism or not. Those hormones have kicked into high gear! He (as of today) is a fifteen year old high schooler. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANIEL!!!) Any man would be thrilled to have this girl paying attention to only you all night, but for this night, it was Daniel and he was beyond thrilled. We were off to a good start.
Amy found me and told me that she had a conversation with Amanda and they felt fine with me leaving for a few hours. I thought I'd stay for a while, and immediately began talking to parents staying a very respectable distance from Daniel ie the opposite side of the room. They immediately hit the dance floor. I honestly wasn't paying much attention to them, but would occasionally glance their way, saw him talking to her, dancing, getting water and a snack, all the usual dance activities.
I had a good time connecting to some parents that I don't know very well and gathered some good high school information. I talked to the dad of another kid on the swim team. A hope we have for Daniel! It was great. By that time I had been there for over an hour and decided I might as well just STAY. So I did. I went to talk to Amy's husband Chris (still far away from my teenager). When YMCA came over the speakers. I don't know why, but that song has always gotten people out on the floor. Every wedding, dance, and when I was a kid, the roller skating rink. I clearly remember that song coming on and everyone yelling and getting out to skate around that rink arms in the air spelling out Y M C A....It's fun to stay at the Y M C A.....it still has the same draw. Maybe it's because we can all do that "dance?" Not sure, but I was surprised when I saw Daniel and Amanda sitting at a round table chatting. From afar it looked rather "normal" although I'm sure he was repeating lines from Toy Story or Sesame Street. She was listening intently, nodding and smiling. (love her) I walked over and said "Daniel YMCA is on, aren't you going to dance?" He turned to me slowly and gave me the most evil look. I kind of backed up and said "I'm sorry, am I interrupting?" He replied, in a growly teenage voice, "YES you are interrupting me....." Amanda had to look away because she started laughing. I was surprised and well, a little happy to see him asserting independence. But WOW. Really? How funny is that?! But they did hit the floor, pictures below.
I backed away slowly and let him reclaim his space. Hiding in the corner. He did come charging up to me a while later pushing his watch under my nose saying "look at my watch. What does it say? It says it is 8:17". For this reason alone, I'm glad I stayed. I knew this meant that he usually gets in the shower at 8:15 pm. I had forgotten to tell him we'd be out later that that and it was "OK". If I give him a heads up now he is OK with it although he might get slightly agitated. I'm not sure how stressed he would have gotten if I wasn't there to interpret this and assure him that it was OK and it was a Friday night and staying out late that night was an exception. He proceeded with the evening.
Later while I was talking to someone I heard a slow song start. I turned around to see Daniel and Amanda dancing together, just as Todd had instructed him. I couldn't believe it. And he looked SO PROUD.
My heartfelt thanks go out to Amy and Amanda for helping make it a memorable and amazing evening for Daniel! I know it wasn't about him, but knowing that the time you spent planning something or volunteering your time touches each person individually hopefully makes all of the time worth it! We look forward to next year and what will come from it. Maybe next time I can leave, and not cramp Daniel's style so much!
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