For special needs students, Daylight Prom a magical event

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Special needs high school students enjoy their own prom.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

It may have been a Thursday this week on your calendar, but for more than 100 local special needs students, it was prom day.

At Edgewood High School, the students’ classroom was transformed into a frenzied prom party prep room as girls donned elegant dresses with volunteer hair stylists and make up specialists hovering over their glamorous transformation.

They were joined by their male Edgewood classmates sporting ties, suspenders and neatly pressed slacks.

Hours before the annual Daylight Prom, which attracts special needs teens from high schools across Butler and Warren counties, the classroom of special education teacher Holly Daiton was festive.

“Look at this,” Daiton said. “Everyone is already excited and giddy.”

The dresses, hair and makeup are important, but they are only a small part of the overall positive impact of the event, said Karen Troup, University of Cincinnati Coordinator for special education programs in the College of Education and a mother of a grown child with autism.

“It is very important for individuals with disabilities to experience every facet of high school life, but many teens with disabilities are not invited to proms and events,” Troup said.

“(Prom) is a rite of passage and very important for all people to have this sort of life experience,” she said.

Edgewood school parent Wendy Barham’s face was beaming with a broad smile as she sat in her daughter’s classroom watching her girl doted on by stylists.

“I never thought she’d go to a prom,” Barham said. “I just didn’t think that was in the cards for her, but this is just amazing.”

“This morning when she was getting ready, Victoria said, ‘look I’m prettiful.’ That was her word for it,” she said of her daughter. “Today this is my chance and everybody’s chance to look at her as prettiful.”

Later that morning the teens would take a school bus to the Oasis Golf Club and Conference Center in Loveland where a large banquet room – featuring a dance floor, a DJ, prom decorations and snacks – awaited them.

Joining the Edgewood students were more than 100 teens from other area high schools, including Loveland, Mason, Carlisle, Waynesville, Lebanon, Franklin, Kings, Little Miami and Springboro

Many of their prom “dates” were parents, siblings or special education classroom aides.

It was the sort of excitement that kept Edgewood teen Paige Neubauer up the night before, according to her mother.

“She hasn’t stopped talking about the prom for weeks,” said her mother Diann Schmidt. “She was so excited.”

Paige admitted she was a tad nervous at first, but the joy of it all soon pushed that away.

“I’m having fun getting all dressed up. I’m shocked this is happening,” said the smiling teen.

Edgewood special education interventionist Rocky Breedlove marveled at his students’ transformations – many who were normally shy and uncomfortable in high-stimulation environments.

“This is amazing and the realistic nature of this prom means we are providing something for the students that many of their parents never thought they would be a part of,” he said.

“We’re providing them with a lifetime milestone with this event,” Breedlove said.

It was the first year Edgewood teens attended the prom, but Daiton said it won’t be the last.

“They didn’t know what to expect, but look at them,” she said gazing at the crowded dance floor. Her teens made a bee line to the other dancers, the waves of music washing away any shyness.

“This is already a success,” she said. “Look at their smiles.”