We first crossed paths with Ms. Jackie when Jake received his private placement for school a few years back. I didn't know her well, but could recognize her as one of the teachers at his school. She soon resigned from the classroom setting, followed her dream and moved into the dance room!
Jackie started a dance company called ZamDancing. I've been afraid to try it for a year or so because the sounds, flashing lights, and general sensory blast. But after seeing Jake enjoy it outside at a local autism event, we decided to give it a try.
Of course I emailed her a million times before we even arrived. Warned her of all Jake's quirks and potential pitfalls. I was more nervous than Jake, as he was so excited he could barely stand still.
The music started and suddenly 15 special needs kids, of all different levels, were suddenly in "sort of" rows completely jamming out! And I mean full out rockin! The thought that struck me first was, this is FREEDOM for these kids.
All day long, they are told how to sit, fold ready hands, stand in a line, be still and quiet, pay attention, and focus. At ZamDance they are FREE. There are flappers, screamers, twirlers, breakdancers, rockers and kids that barely look up. But you know what, they are all in community, experiencing the joy of just being free to do whatever their brains are telling their bodies to do. The movement is encouraged and celebrated even if it's more stim than structure!
Some kids find the beat, some kids dance to their own rhythms but they all idolize Ms. Jackie. This woman is a rock star... in the dark room with flashing lights I could see her inner-light shining at the head of the class. She can move in ways that aren't possible for my old knees anymore and quick... holy cow she's quick!
As I watched from the back, I could feel the tears brimming my eyes numerous times. When the cool down stopped, Jake was sweaty, hoarse from cheering and keyed up! "I want to do this all the time mommy! We have to come again! Ms. Jackie is awesome!" This montra hasn't stopped all day long.
He broke out dancing in the restaurant while sitting at the table, he stopped in the parking lot and practice his "sliding step" then bee-bopped all the way to the car after shopping. You know how hard it is to try on pants when you can't stop your toes from tapping? Jake wants me to download every song he danced to onto his ipod so he can practice for next week.
I know he had fun dancing, but I also know it was so much more than that and he felt it. He wasn't corrected he was encouraged. He wasn't laughed at he was applauded. He was part of a non-judgmental community and he reacted to it in his own way, jus tlike every other child in the room.
What a blessing Ms. Jackie is in the lives of dozens of children with intense needs. She just loves so freely and you can't mistake that feeling... it's Divine.
If you missed yesterday's post on loneliness it's here.