For special education students having fun at the prom can present its own set of challenges. However, thanks to the efforts of a special education teacher, students are looking forward to a memorable and fun evening.
At Wisconsin Dells High School Mary Bebber is using her personal time and a school van to take six students to dinner and the dance. She has been a special education teacher for 20 years. She will be assisted by six staff members. The evening is fun and also educational.
Three boys and three girls will be going. Two of them are sophomores and the other four are juniors, Bebber said. She invited the sophomores to attend this year so they could experience prom as a group, whereas next year she anticipates having fewer juniors. Prom is a traditional dance for juniors.
“We try to get them to be involved in all the planning, because it’s just like any other thing. My job is to teach them daily living skills and part of daily living is doing recreational activity: going out for dinner, going to a dance, shopping for clothes. All of that is functional,” she said.
Going to dinner and prom is an opportunity for Bebber to observe her students in a different setting where sometimes she notices her students display higher levels of functioning than in the classroom. It is also possible for her to see them struggle with a task and it helps her understand what else she has to work on with her students.
“I like to see them outside of the classroom. We get to have fun. I get to see them on a more personal level, a social level,” she said.
One of Bebber’s students is receiving a dress from the high school’s fashion class, which has a program for students make alterations to formal dresses that have been donated to the school. Girls can wear the dresses to events like prom.
Debbie Hamburg, fashions class teacher, said the program is underutilized, but she is glad it exists to help even the few number of students who might want to use it.
The program saves students money from having to buy an expensive dress that they might not wear much, but as Hamburg pointed out, many female students who could be donating dresses to the program, keep their dresses for sentimental reasons. The program could benefit from having dresses that are one to two years old because students like the more recent fashions, Hamburg said.
“We need them to give their dresses up that year that they’re done with them,” Hamburg said. “…We need your dresses because they’re just going to hang in your mother’s house for 10 years and then they’re old and no one wants them.”
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