I’m proud and honored to be a Mom of a daughter with special needs who just happened to be TAPA’s first student. So if that’s my claim to fame and the reason why I’m sitting here writing this little blog then I’ll take it and run with it.
I don’t think any parent initially wants to be in this elite sorority of “special needs”. As time goes on, I’ve learned to handle it with much more patience, understanding and having a sense of humor helps significantly. When my daughter Morgan was younger, like any Mom I wanted her to take ballet lessons. After all, isn’t that the typical thing that little girls do? Morgan’s favorite things in the world are music and dancing. I knew that at 2-3 years old she was different from the other kids and definitely developing at a significantly slower rate than other kids her age. However, that didn’t deter me from finding a dance class that would work with her.
The first place I went too was more of a sports oriented facility that happened to have a dance class with less than 10 girls in the class. It was fine but it was one of those times, that I truly realized how different Morgan was from all the other girls physically, emotionally and socially.
The next place I went to was the quintessential dance studio with classes ranging from 2 years old up to competitive dance teams. I felt Morgan and I had arrived because it seemed so professional. The studios were mirrored with the bars on one side and real wood floors. They even had an end of year show at a high school. Needless to say I was living for this monumental performance.
Initially this studio was wonderful in realizing that Morgan needed assistance and asked two of the “older” girls (who couldn’t have much older than 14) to work with her. These girls were fabulous and Morgan loved being there. The rest of the girls in Morgan’s class were not so nice or overly encouraging.
As time went on, the show was getting closer and Morgan’s teacher asked me that instead of hanging backstage with the rest of the school, Morgan should remain with us and then when it was closer to her class’ performance someone that she knew would come get her and then show time! I was a nervous wreck because I was afraid something was going to happen on stage. The music came on and Morgan knocked it out the park. She was amazing (and at times better than some of the other girls in her class- of course I’m biased but still!!) I could not stop the tears from flowing, I was so proud of her and so relieved that she was participating with other typical peers. When, my husband and I found her after the show, she came running up to us “I did it! I did it!” We couldn’t believe what a great experience she had and we were so thrilled that Morgan finally found a place that really accepted who she was.
When I went to sign her up again the following year, they were not so inviting and the impression I got was that Morgan was too much work for them and we were not welcomed back. I was truly devastated. Where was I going to find a dance class to meet my daughter’s needs?
… and then I met Susan Russo. She and her team of angels were opening up a place where all kids with special needs were welcomed with opened arms for dance, music, and art classes. I couldn’t believe my luck and what more I couldn’t believe how happy Morgan was going to be taking dance class again! Needless to say, it’s been 3 years since we first walked into TAPA and its Morgan’s and my favorite place to be on a Wednesday afternoon.