This weekend, I read about a teen with Down syndrome in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, who was her school's senior prom queen. Electing students with DS to be prom queens and kings has been a trend for the last few years. I've often had mixed reactions to this, especially when students or principals have noted what a good deed it is. I hate thinking of our kids as charity cases. But this story is a different scenario, and it truly made me glad.
Carley House, 18, is in a special needs classroom at Cape Girardeau Central High School, but from kindergarten through junior high, she was in mainstream classes. As her mom Tamilla said, "This allowed her to form true friendships and unique bonds with many students in her grade. Carley has maintained those friendships throughout the years." Her friends take her out for ice-cream, go to her birthday parties, and include her in activities. Carley also has a reputation for lending a hand to friends, including caring for them when sick or just making them laugh.
This is not a student with special needs who lives an isolated life and then gets named prom queen mainly as a charitable act. This is a story about a student body electing a beloved peer who is one of them. This is inclusion. As prom king Ryan May said, "There are different types of people included in this school, but they can all come together." Sure, maybe some kids voted for Carley out of some misguided sense of pity, as people often do feel about those with special needs. But really: Carley is a popular girl, as prom queens tend to be. Not special—just totally typical.
Ellen Seidman is a mom of two, editor, and professional snacker who blogs daily at Love That Max. You can find her pondering special needs parenthood and other important topics (such as what her next snack will be) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ even though she still hasn't totally figured out what that is.
Image of diamond tiara for prom queen via Shutterstock.