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The First Time My Son With Special Needs Felt Like a Star

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My son will tell you he’s not good at much. He’s at least three grades behind in school. He has a hard time keeping up in soccer. He’s afraid of heights and swimming pools. His attention span is short and his interests limited. But one thing he’s always had the natural God-given gift for is rhythm. When music comes on, especially hip hop, it speaks to him. He finds the beat and his body just takes over. It’s amazing.

Because he’s 9 now and finally understands the structure of a class, I enrolled him in a six-week hip-hop class. On the first day, my fingers were crossed and my belly fluttered with nerves. Would he be able to follow along? Would he feel too different? Would he get frustrated and storm out?

Admittedly, even though they closed the door to the room, I stood right outside and watched through the curtains. I’m glad I did, because I was completely unprepared for what I witnessed.

While the other girls in the class (yes, all girls) hugged their bodies and stood shyly in the back, my son Mateo went front and center and just…let loose. He danced like no one was watching. We’ve seen him do this at home and even in the mall when a store blasts music particularly loudly. But here, among his peers, he performed.

And boy, was he good!

My little boy who can’t read, doesn’t understand math concepts and can’t follow simple games in gym class, was poppin’ and lockin’ like he was the next contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

And I saw something amazing happen. The rest of the kids in the class started to smile. Then laugh. Then sway. Then stop looking around at who was watching them. Then let loose.

All because of him.

He may never be an inventor or a scientist — heck, he may never read past a third grade level — but during that 45 minutes of class every week, he inspires people.

When the first class ended, he looked up at me with a big smile and said, “Mom, I’m good at that, right?”

I had to fight back my tears because I’d never heard those words come from his mouth. I’d never seen him grin so widely. Not only was he good at it, he was the star.

Watch Mateo showing off his moves in the video below.

Originally published: August 6, 2015
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