On the day of his first formal high school dance, Clay got up at 4:00 a.m. with no intention of going back to sleep.
“So sorry,” he typed for his Mom on the keyboard he uses to communicate. “Can’t sleep.”
It wasn’t the first (or probably last) time he’s gotten up that early. He has pulled a few all-nighters in his day, as well. So, off to school he went, while we crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t receive the dreaded call that he needed to come home.
At that point, it was anybody’s guess whether we would be going to the prom being held by the Autism Cares Foundation at 7 p.m. that night. Or, if we went, how it would turn out. Being veteran autism parents, we’ve learned to go with the flow. We’d see what the day brought. No great transcendental wisdom handed down by people with robes and shaved heads. You just learn over the years not to fight it.
Clay made it through school just fine. I checked in late in the afternoon to gauge his mood, and see what lay ahead. My wife reported that the waters remained calm in Clayville.
We decided to activate the launch sequence, but we’re prepared to hit the big red “abort mission” button at any moment.
When I got home around 5, we began getting Clay ready. After a quick shave, we dressed him in an old suit and tie from his brother that miraculously fit, a white shirt inherited from a cousin, his brother’s belt and my shoes. This is a kid who wears nothing but loose, comfortable clothing—sweats, shorts with stretch waistbands, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sneakers. Never dress shoes. Never a belt. Certainly not a tie or sports jacket. So we were certainly surprised when he accepted the outfit. How long would it stay intact? We were about to find out.
Once he was dressed, and looking pretty snazzy (even a little mousse in his hair), it was off to the prom, which was held at the local high school.
We signed in at the door to the cafeteria, which had been dressed up for the evening.
Clay stood still for a buttoniere.
The little guy’s whole outfit was still together while we got in line for the formal photo. But the jacket came off and the shirt came out of his pants as we walked across the dance floor to check out the food.
A turkey sandwich, french fries, tomatoes, a soft pretzel. His white shirt tells the tale of a satisfying meal.
After dinner, Clay’s teacher made an appearance, whisking Prom Dude onto the dance floor.
Next up, a group picture with Clay’s teacher and a growing group of buddies.
Time for a well-earned, much-needed iPad break.
We’ve learned the hard way over the years to try to leave on a high note, so after a miraculous 90-minutes, when Clay’s mood remained calm (exhaustion from four hours of sleep the night before may have actually helped), we quickly packed up, said some hasty goodbyes and thank yous and headed home.
What was the little guy’s verdict on the evening?
“So stupendas,” he typed.
That about captures it.
#1 by The Domestic Goddess on May 23, 2011 - 10:02 am
I’m so glad he got that opportunity and that he enjoyed it! We’ve also learned NEVER to overstay our welcome, so to speak. If there is one whiney moment or one flop-and-drop, we are SO OUTTA THERE.
#2 by Loretta on May 23, 2011 - 10:19 am
How brave he is for going way out of his comfort zone. How handsome he looks!
#3 by autismmommytherapist on May 23, 2011 - 10:51 am
So handsome, and good for you guys for leaving on a positive note!
#4 by Kim on May 23, 2011 - 11:03 am
…seriously welled up a little. He looked great! So glad you all had a good time.
#5 by Harold Dufour-Anderson on May 23, 2011 - 12:13 pm
Tremendous. What a great opportunity to extend Clay’s social parameters. Who doesn’t remember his/her first formal party with all the attendant excitement, anxiety and anticipation — and I’m talking about just what their parents experienced. From the looks of the photos (which are great, by the way), I think Clay handled it all with a certain poise. Thank you parents, thank you Clay (and friends/classmates) for sharing.
#6 by Larry Blumenthal on May 23, 2011 - 12:29 pm
Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts. Here is the coolest part. As you know, it can be hard to read what Clay is feeling or thinking. The way he submitted to wearing a suit, his attitude as we prepared, his calmness during the event and the amazing way he stood for photos all shouted one thing to us. He wants the opportunity to participate in the kind of events that most teens take for granted. We are so grateful to the Autism Cares Foundation for recognizing that need, providing these opportunities, and doing it with so much understanding, flexibility and affection. Our hats are off to Frank and Linda Kuepper.