Last year, we enrolled Ben in dance classes at a local dance studio that specializes in classes for young children. The emphasis is on imaginative play set to music and creative movement rather than learning specific routines and steps.
Even back when Ben had a lot of difficulty engaging in group activity at school, he always loved when it was time for music and dance activities and would willingly participate. What he lacks in coordination he more than makes up for in enthusiasm.
Dance classes seemed like a good way to combine physical activity with a chance to interact with typical peers in a structured environment. The fact that a ball and rules were NOT involved was a big plus.
The teachers at this studio were incredibly patient with his quirks and managed to bring out the best in him. He looked forward to the session each week and clearly loved his teachers. Even those days where he spent more time making funny faces at himself in the mirror than participating, the teachers still welcomed us back and continued to encourage his creativity.
During last class of each session, parents and family members are invited to watch the children perform.
It just so happened that for the final performance this session, we had several family members visiting from out of town. Of course, they wanted to go to Ben's "recital."
Not knowing what to expect from Ben, I proceeded to set expectations rather low. The day before, after all, he had cowered in Chris' arms and repeatedly asked (okay, shouted) to go home during his preschool graduation as the other children stood in front of the parents and sang songs.
I pictured six adults sheepishly filing out of the studio mid-way through the performance after Ben melted down. I mentally prepared for the worst.
But he was glorious.
He played to the crowd, hamming it up like I've never seen him do before. He fed off his audience, at one point grinning coyly over his shoulder at us from the circle of dancers. Jumping, laughing, prompting the teacher and class for the part that came next.
No one watching would have been able to peg him as being "different" or having a "disorder" or would have described him as "in his own world."
He was just an enthusiastic little boy who loved being in the spotlight.
And, yes, this is part of who he is, along with the part that clings to my neck in noisy places and the part that rarely tells me what he did at preschool.
And for that afternoon, I got to experience the part of me that's a Stage Mom: applauding wildly, waving to him as he peeked out from behind the curtain, snapping pictures, and beaming like crazy.