**Be sure to scroll to the end to enjoy the very special slideshow we created to document this occasion**
A quiet hush fell over the room.
Families and friends adjusted their camera lenses and prepared to capture the moment. The parents stand all in a line, each heart hammering in its chest- the sound: like thunder in their ears. Without consciously thinking about it, they hold their collective breath. The anticipation and fear of the unknown is enough to suffocate.
My little girl stands in the center of the room, her tiny hand tucked into the very capable hand of her helper (and now, friend): Maria. And yet, I worry that my fragile girl is scared, that she is nervous, that the crowd will frighten her.
In these last few moments, I desperately try to make eye contact with her. I need to know she is ok. She looks past me many times taking in the new scene before her - the new room, the number of people, the new costumes. Finally, her eyes rest on me - a sob catches in my throat.
I have to fight furiously to keep from spilling the tears that I feel welling up in my eyes.
The music begins and though the performance is only 3-5 minutes long, I find myself reliving the past 5 years.
I scroll through the day I learned she would be mine- the elation, the fear. I remember the day we first met- how fiercely I loved her and how I would die to protect her. I feel the pride we experienced when we introduced her to the world. I hear her baby voice as she cooed and giggled over the ceiling fan (fanny) and the chandelier (lumie). I recall her fascination with mirrors and how she held her head up so early. I remember how she practically skipped crawling altogether and "humped" to a walk - at 10 months. Always early in her milestones. Such a beautiful baby, she stood out from the beginning.
And then, I remember her struggle to sleep, the reflux that kept us homebound, the meltdowns, the anxiety, the rigidity, the organizing and lining up of toys, the inability to communicate.
And then, I feel the stares of all the people who didn't understand our method of parenting, or who couldn't fathom carrying a child out of a store kicking and screaming because the lights were too bright, the sounds too loud.
I relive the moments of sensory difficulty, her clinging to the door frame to avoid being immersed in water for a bath, blacking out rooms to sleep, hiding behind me because she was afraid of people, pleading with her to take just one bite of food.
I remember the fear when we learned she would experience Autism- Forever... How would that affect her life? How would it affect mine?
I feel the weight and pressure of knowing I would have to educate those around her and pave the way for people to accept and make accommodation for her- it feels so heavy. Can I do it? How will I do it?
How do I keep my sanity when every obstacle is in our path? How do I keep moving forward when every single step is a fight?
So many things fill my mind as I watch my girl...and the one thought that dominates over it all is that I am AMAZED.
My precious girl is out there, she is a fighter, she is a quick learner and she is trying. She feels like a princess and does her best to dance like her Maria.
All of this consumes me during her short performance - it seems impossible, but it is true.
We are so grateful to Dance Without Limits for giving Kylie this opportunity and experience. It is a dream come true - not only for her, but for us as well. We so did not want her to have to give up or miss out on typical little girl pleasures because of her sensitivities to light and sound, people, crowds and other factors.
Dance Without Limits is a division of Ballet Des Moines. It is a ballet/dance class for children with special needs who otherwise would not have this opportunity. Each child is assigned at least one ballerina helper (usually a teenage girl or other adult volunteer) that works directly with that child. It is wonderful for forming a trusting and anxiety free bonded relationship.
The classes meet once a week (usually a Sunday Afternoon) and the children learn basic ballet moves in language they can understand and relate to. No child with special needs is turned away.
Dance Without Limits also has a Physical Therapist on hand to monitor the children and be available for various needs.
At the end of the season, there is a recital. Family and friends are invited to attend and the children are given costumes that have been donated by caring and generous donors. The parents bring snacks for everyone to share.
The children perform for 3-5 minutes and then the ballerina helpers wow us with their dance skills. It is impressive and just short enough that the children do not become restless.
Afterwards, each child is presented with a pinwheel and a Tshirt signed by all the dancers.
It is an amazing experience.
For our family, specifically, this was the first time that Kylie was willing to leave us. We were thrilled when she would take Maria's hand and go into the studio. And how we loved watching through the window.
Monika Peltz is a superb teacher who is incredible with these children. She and her helpers are of the elite in the Des Moines area.Dance Without Limits is also very accommodating...they accept each child just as they are. For example, they did not care one bit when Kylie refused to wear her dance clothes and instead showed up in a "Pinkalicious" dress up dress. Nor did they care when she carried in a large, hard-back fairy tale book (which had to stay right next to her the entire time - (as a comfort object).
I believe that those are the very things that made all the difference in whether this program was successful for Kylie or not. She TRUSTED them, because they accepted her exactly as she is.
This season's session is now over, and our entire family is in mourning. It was a positive experience for all of us. We can't wait for fall and are super excited to make even more memories.
I remember how afraid I was the very first day we arrived and I know the confidence and trust I feel for them now having experienced all that Dance Without Limits offers. My daughter is in the very best, loving, caring and generous hands that I can imagine!
I hope you will enjoy the slideshow I put together about our experience with Dance Without Limits (Music credits go to Kutless and Janelle)
click here to watch the slideshow: (Let me know what you think) Kylie's Dance Recital - 2011 Dance Without Limits- Spring
For more information about this program, you can access this website link.
Information about Dance Without Limits