I Cried After Taking My Daughter With Down Syndrome to the Dance


If you can be anything, be kind.

Last night was the homecoming dance, and my daughter Courtney had so much fun getting fancy. A cute dress, pretty hair and her sister putting just a touch of makeup on her. She looked in the mirror and said, “I look like an angel. I look pretty.” And she did.

So off to the dance we went. Courtney and I walked into the school and waited in line to pay her $5 admission. She was nervous but so excited. 

I wish I could tell you that the moment she walked in the crowd parted and she was greeted with high-fives, fist bumps, hugs, hellos and kids asking her to dance.

Instead, Courtney was at her first homecoming dance standing off to the side looking at her feet.

Not one person said hello, not one person asked her to dance, not one person acknowledged her except for a girl who smiled at her.

This lasted about five minutes, then Courtney and I danced our way onto the floor. We danced to every song for about an hour. We got low with Usher, sang “Wrecking Ball” way too loud, slow danced to “God Gave Me You,” did the Cha-Cha Slide and more.

We had the best time.

Courtney’s knee was hurting a bit so she said she was ready to go. On our walk to the car I asked how she liked the dance. Her response: ”It was the funnest night, and I’m a good dancer, Mom.” I told Courtney how much fun I had and that I was so excited to get to go with her.

After Courtney went to bed, I sat outside on the back step and cried. I cried because I wanted just one person to be kind and say hello to her. I cried because I wanted just one person to be kind and ask her to dance. I cried because I didn’t want her to have to dance with her 40-year-old mom. I cried because I love her and wanted this night to be so amazing for her.

Then while replaying the dance in my mind, I thought about Courtney singing “Wrecking Ball,” how she loved it when I twirled her and how she laughed every time she tried to twirl me. I remembered how I totally screwed up on the Cha-Cha Slide and she said, “Mom you not doing it right.” I thought about how she would hug me during the slow songs and try to imitate the couples around us. I thought about how on every pop song she would say, “This is my jam.” My sadness turned into joy.

I will choose to remember the homecoming dance the exact way Courtney will: a fancy dress and a fun night of dancing.

My hope is that after reading this, you will take time to talk with your children about kindness to others. Every single person, including Courtney, is worthy of your smile and a moment of your time to say hello.

Shawn Sullentrup.3-001

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Down Syndrome

Man With Autism Makes Awesome Animation for Sesame Street

For one autism mom, Sesame Street’s new autism content really hit home. Mama Fry, a popular blogger who writes for The Mighty and also on her own site called Autism With a Side of Fries, joined her voice to the many who have been talking about Sesame Street’s new autism initiative. Mama Fry posted to [...]

We Turned Our Son’s Wheelchair Into a John Deere Tractor for Halloween

Our 1-year-old son, Calvin, is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair to get around (and get into trouble). We decided to incorporate his wheelchair into his Halloween costume because he likes candy as much as any toddler and needs a way to get to the front door! Using just a cardboard box, [...]

2 Things to Know About Seeking a Spectrum Diagnosis as an Adult

For a long time, I had difficulty answering a question that centered around the fact I received an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis at the age of 30. It’s a question I get on a regular basis: “Why would anyone would seek an ASD diagnosis as an adult? If you’ve made it that far, what’s [...]

The Phrase I’d Want My Younger Self With Multiple Sclerosis to Repeat

Dear Teisha, When you were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), the news was unexpected and devastating. But I reassured you that MS doesn’t signify the end. This new journey will be filled with incredible experiences. At the same time, I was up front by warning you there would be challenging times ahead. This morning, such [...]