Creating Memories for Students with IDD

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Creating Memories for Students with IDD

Julia Wendland, Author

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The lights go out as hundreds of high school students flood into the gym. Loud music is reflecting off the walls—filling the room with its vibrations. Strings of lights are scattered throughout the gym, blinking in time with the music. That is a description of an average Homecoming at Muskego High School; however, this year we held our first ever Sensory-Friendly Homecoming Dance.

On September 28, 2019, Best Buddies joined together with Student Council to create an opportunity that was open to students of all abilities. A huge thank you to Co-President of Best Buddies, Betsy Kirsop, for bringing forth this idea. At 6:45 pm until 7:15 pm, the gym was full of Best Buddies members and the well-dressed special education students. Ms. Pyne, advisor of Best Buddies, said sixteen students with IDD (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) showed up to the dance. Since this was the first time ever hosting a Sensory-Friendly Homecoming, Best Buddies believes this to be an awesome turnout.  

A Sensory-Friendly Homecoming varies from the traditional Homecoming Dance that all of the lights in the gym are kept on and the volume of the music is significantly lower. Similarly, fewer students are in the gym to allow for reduced levels of anxiety among IDD students. This allows for special education students who are not able to handle intense atmospheres, to enjoy a Homecoming Dance. Special education students do not always receive the chance to go to school dances because of their sensitivity to extreme noise and light. 

Pictured are students of Muskego High School enjoying the sensory-friendly Homecoming.

Students with disabilities arrived in suits and dresses with flowers pinned on their clothing. Their families accompanied them to witness the pure joy on their faces as they danced along with all of the other high school students; they had never felt more included. There were many moments during this dance that sparked a smile from those standing by. Anna Bogan’s favorite part of the Sensory-Friendly Homecoming “was seeing the buddies’ parents show up with them and have the ability to take pictures of their son or daughter dressed up and attending a high school dance, which may have been an experience they thought they would never see.”

One student with IDD, Matt Bell, showed off his sweet dance moves to everybody watching him. He enjoyed being the center of attention and even gathered a group of people to teach his dance moves to! As Anna Bogan would say, “Matt Bell took charge of the dance floor…showing us how it’s done.” The moments of pure bliss are ones Muskego High School wishes to remember. Ms. Pyne said “seeing the smiles on their faces when they were actually dancing was priceless!” 

Betsy Kirsop says “the sensory friendly homecoming was an opportunity to bring students together for an inclusive memorable night.” All in all, with this sensory-friendly event students with disabilities were able to feel included. Best Buddies pulled off an amazing event that changed the perspective of high school for many students with IDD.