Eastern’s Special Education department organizes a prom for neurodivergent students


Victoria Heppler

Neurodivergent students have a blast at the 2023 Special Education Prom in Gym One.

   Prom is a pivotal moment in a student’s high school career. The eccentric outfits, elaborate promposals, and the dance itself make it such an integral part of the high school experience. However, prom leaves a large group of high school students out of the excitement—neurodivergent students.

   Many neurodivergent students are not able to attend prom because of their specific diagnoses. The bright and flashing lights in the dark can cause seizures for those with epilepsy. For those with sensory and auditory processing disorders, the music booming from the speakers can be overstimulating. These traits of most typical proms make it so certain students cannot attend, making them feel excluded from their peers. 

   With this in mind, Eastern’s Special Education department is organizing its first prom for neurodivergent students. Ms. Heppler, an Instructional Aid, is spearheading this initiative. This is her first year at Eastern, after previously working with kindergarten students diagnosed with autism in Medford.

   “So some of my students were talking about prom and saying how they can’t go for just a number of reasons, so I thought that that was unfair because prom is such a big high school experience,” she explained. “I figured we should give them a prom that lets them be comfortable in their own environment and feel safe.”

   To fundraise for the prom, the Special Education department held a bake sale in the main foyer on the week of April 24th. They earned around $700 dollars, which is being used for decorations, a DJ, and catering.

   The prom will have certain accommodations in place for neurodivergent students. “The music isn’t going to be as loud, and there’ll be a quiet area for the kids to go if they feel a little bit too stimulated,” Heppler described. “There are no flashing lights and the lights aren’t going to be turned all the way down, so it’ll just be a little bit brighter in there for them,” she elaborated. 

   The prom was on Friday, May 19th, starting at 6:30 pm in Gym One. These accommodations ensure that neurodivergent students get the same opportunity to go to prom—dressing up, dancing, and delighting in the fun.