An “Aloha Prom” was held in Oregon this past weekend, complete with leis and a huge punch bowl. Tailored for students with special needs, the dance was organized by the state’s reigning teacher of the year. Just a few years ago, the students didn’t have a prom to go to.
Brett Bigham, who is the first special ed teacher to be named Oregon’s teacher of the year, started the Special Needs Prom five years ago, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
“It’s just the natural thing as you get to your last year of school,” Bigham tells OPB’s Lucy Ohlsen. “Everybody gets a prom. It was necessary. And as you can see, the kids just love it.”
The prom is just like any other, Ohlsen says, with a few exceptions.
“There is no prom king or queen, and this dance is in the early afternoon,” she writes. And for those who need it, the event includes “special diet treats and quiet spaces to get away from the noise and lights.”
Bigham teaches in the Multnomah Education Service District in Portland; students from other towns drove as much as an hour to attend Friday’s prom.
News of the event led us to wonder how many other similar proms are held in the U.S.
We found several. One is in Modesto, Calif., where the Society for Disabilities puts on a prom this year with the theme “Flying to Neverland.” You can see traditional “prom date”-style photos from last year’s dance on Facebook.
And in western North Carolina, Chase High School in Rutherford County recently held its 18th annual Special Needs Prom, according to local TV WLOS News 13. The station reports that the dance occurs the night after the regular prom, so the same decorations are used.