Certain things come to mind when I think about a prom. Limo rides. Prom gowns. Corsages. Dancing.
Many children and teens with disabilities, whether physical or mental, are not comfortable attending their school prom or are not able to attend due to physical barriers. Prom is a significant milestone for everyone, and we at Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC) would like to ensure that EVERY child and teen has the opportunity to experience this special night.
When my colleague Jenny Domiano and I first set out on this journey to build TLC — a progressive, pediatric-based clinic to benefit all children’s growth and development — we wanted to create programming that filled the gap for what is not currently offered in the city for children with special needs. We have discovered that parents are starving for new and innovative ideas for their kids to engage in meaningful activities. They want these activities to not only benefit their children in a therapeutic way, but also enhance their life socially.
On Saturday, May 16th, our social mission will reach another level by hosting our first annual special needs Heart & “Sole” Prom – where our special needs kids can dance their hearts out! We want to make sure they are provided an experience that allows them to feel at ease and enjoy a night they won’t forget. The prom, which is being sponsored by a variety of organizations, includes kids and teens with special needs from cerebral palsy to autism.
Jenny says two things will be universal for this prom: lots of dancing and no judgment.
We knew when setting out to build this prom we could not do it alone. Our committee of what we like to call our “TLC Moms,” each with a child with a different disability, helps us with every aspect of this prom. This is to ensure every child, despite diagnosis, will enjoy the night. The event will be made more accessible to those who are sensitive to stimulation by forgoing strobe lights, designating some rooms as quiet spaces, turning the music volume low, and keeping food bland to avoid allergies. The response so far from the community has been overwhelming. One “TLC Mom” said she is so excited about this event and so grateful we are doing this for their kids, but in my eyes, I’m the lucky one who gets to be a part of these kids’ lives even just for this special night.
We hope your child will be able to join us for our Heart & “Sole” Prom. Our event is intended for children, teens, and young adults with special needs from ages 8-26 years. The ages will be divided into two groups: 9-12 year olds will have their “prom” from 4:00-6:00 pm and 13-26 year olds will be held from 6:30-8:30 pm Saturday, May 16th at Congregation Gates of Prayer in Metairie. You can find more information and registration for the prom on our website.
About Brooke Weinstein, OTD, LOTR
Brooke is a native New Orleanian who graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in Recreational Therapy. She then went on to earn her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis where her focus was on therapy through dance and other recreational activities to promote quality of life. Brooke has always known she wanted to work with the pediatric population. She has worked at East Jefferson Hospital, as well as Children’s Hospital, and is an Early Steps provider for the state of Louisiana, offering early intervention for children in their natural environment. She believes Therapeutic Learning Center will provide a new and exciting avenue to assist children in the New Orleans community and improving all children’s quality of life. Brooke is also mom to one year old Charlie.