Many students, including Hayden, took the prom as an opportunity to dress sharp. (Photo by Stephen Enright/Carolina News and Reporter)

Will, a student with special needs at Dreher High School, wasn’t a fan of the dozens of cameras pointed at him for his TV interview. He opted to talk about his passion for South Carolina football rather than the prom that was about to kick off.

As soon as the music turned on, Will was the first to join in the festivities. He showed off his signature dance move, The Potato.

“He likes a party, and he likes to dance,” said Will’s mom, Stacy Walden. “Any combination of that is great for him.”

Will was one of Dreher’s students with special needs who attended the prom on March 22.

The prom took all students’ needs into account – keeping the lights on, the music low and a variety of food adhering to dietary restrictions.

“I think that prom for all students is a rite of passage,” said Robert Griffin, a special services consultant with Richland School District 1. “It gives our students with disabilities a chance to interact with their peers, enjoy the time together.”

Having a prom of their own is not necessarily a bad thing, some said. It allows the community to foster a safe environment and ensure everyone has fun.

“There was a time … when I felt like inclusion was important,” Walden said. “‘Why isn’t he going to the big prom?’ But that’s overwhelming for him. So I really appreciate the efforts and the time and attention that goes into an experience that is dedicated toward their needs.”

Hayden, a student in teacher Kimberly Smith’s class, was dressed to the nines in a blue blazer and matching bow tie as he led classmates in dance.

“He told his mother exactly what he was wearing today,” Smith said. “He was insisting that he needed a suit coat.”

Around 30 of Dreher’s general education students came to the prom to help serve food, dance with students and run games.

“It makes me happy to see other people happy,” said sophomore Aniyaa. “It’s just so cool to see a smile on their face. And just to see them just shining to have their own individual prom is just amazing.”

At the end of the day, Will is just like any other high schooler at Dreher.

“He should have the same opportunity that other high school kids have,” Walden said.

Will shows off his patented dance moves to classmates as the prom begins. (Photo by Stephen Enright/Carolina News and Reporter)

Students who didn’t want to dance could play cornhole, putt-putt or bowling. (Photo by Stephen Enright/Carolina News and Reporter)

After the shyness wore off, students were up and dancing. (Video by Stephen Enright/Carolina News and Reporter)

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