By Christine Givens, Parent, The Woodlands, TX
Abstract: A mother shares her daughter’s experience attending a prom specifically designed for young people with disabilities.
Keywords: Family Wisdom, deafblind, community based services, inclusion, recreation, social
On April 12, 2008, our church, The Woodlands United Methodist Church (TWUMC), held a formal dance for area Special Needs teenagers and their guests. A total of 50 teenagers arrived at the church to experience a “Royal Evening”. They were Kings and Queens who were presented with crowns and personalized sashes. As the teens arrived, they were escorted to the south entrance where they embarked on an early evening carriage ride. The carriage, which was pulled by two decorated Clydesdale horses, delivered them to the main entrance. They were again escorted to an interview area where the “Court Jester” was simulcast onto the big screens in the banquet area. He made lively conversation for all to enjoy and then introduced the arriving “Royalty”. Pictures were taken and a meal fit for royalty was served. The Kings and Queens were then entertained by a local DJ and danced the evening away.
You might be asking, “Nice article – but what is it doing in Texas SenseAbilities?” Well, this story focuses on two particular young people who attended the dance. What was so unique about them is that King Travis Daft and Queen Skye Givens are both deafblind and have multiple disabilities. What a spectacular pair they were on that brisk April evening. Travis arrived handsomely dressed in a black tuxedo with matching yellow cummerbund and bowtie and Skye arrived in a beautiful yellow gown with a matching wrap. Our Special Blessing Ministry Team at (TWUMC) made some very special arrangements to meet their unique needs.
Let’s back up to the day that Skye received an invitation from her friend Travis to come as his guest. Skye is only 10 years old and Travis is 17. First, we convinced Dad that his little girl, Skye, was growing up and opportunities to socialize will be coming her way. This was a very exciting time, and Skye needed something to wear. Honestly, as Skye’s mother, I was a little perplexed about the proper attire for a formal dance, and how do we even go about finding a dress???? I mentioned the invitation to Skye’s Recreational Therapist, Kristin Schultz, and without any hesitation on her part, she immediately responded “we’re going dress shopping,” and that’s exactly what happened the very next week. Skye was a trooper and Kristin was leading the way, determined that we were going to try on as many dresses as needed to find just the right one. (It only took 12 dresses for Mom to decide that dress number 2 was really the perfect one for Skye.)
Of course, Mom had to do the trial run for fixing hair and dressing just to be sure we didn’t have any snags on the “big night”. Skye’s grandparents and several of our neighbors came to give Skye a “paparazzi” send off, complete with flashing cameras and well wishes from all. Of course Dad was the proudest of all and he shared some heartfelt words before we left. (I wish I had thought to ask someone to take a picture of his face when he saw her all dressed up for the first time. She looked beautiful.)
Kristin and I met Travis and his parents, Teresa and Gary, at the church. Skye and Travis exchanged flowers. Travis and Gary had picked out a yellow corsage for Skye, and Skye helped design Travis’ yellow boutonniere. You could not have found prouder parents at that moment. So many plans and special arrangements had taken place and now the evening was in full swing.
Our Special Blessing Ministry Team had thought of every last detail to accommodate their needs. Travis and Skye arrived just in time to be the final carriage riders for the evening. Volunteers were ready to lift each of our Royals into their Cinderella carriage, and ready at the other end with wheelchairs in hand to get them resettled. Cameras and videos were in constant use to help tell their story. Once they arrived for their interview, the Court Jester welcomed them and announced their arrival.
They posed for some pictures and went right to the dance floor where they enjoyed dancing to the classics – The Chicken Dance, The Conga, The Cotton-Eyed Joe, The Train Dance and YMCA to name just a few. Of course the dancing was made complete by the parents and Kristin who maneuvered the wheelchairs expertly across the dance floor and attempted to keep up with the various hand signs and arm motions. Beforehand, Teresa and I both felt that if they could just make it through one or two songs, it would be a success. Well, our young party animals danced almost until the end. They had a great time!
As I write this article there are so many people to thank for making this evening so successful for these two young friends. We extend our deepest thanks to TWUMC, the Special Blessing Ministry Team, the many volunteers who assisted with the decorations, pictures, etc., of course the parents and Kristin, the surrounding community and all who heard their story before and after the dance. It doesn’t matter that our kids have issues, we still want them to have those “awesome moments” that none of us will ever forget. Skye and Travis’ experience touched so many lives during this time and we’re all thankful to God for their special spirits. Their stories have opened the door to talk to people who are unaware of deafblindness and multiple disabilities. Countless pictures have been sent to family and friends and anyone who wants to hear—I generally have pictures with me so I’m ready. What’s even more amazing is that their story continues to touch hearts. Who knows – possibly next year somewhere in the US another deafblind couple will be attending their prom for the first time.
As you finish reading this article, I hope it encourages you to look at those individuals in your own life who are deafblind and make sure that their stories and “awesome moments” are shared with others. In fact, share with as many people as possible. Remember – Travis and Skye created change.