Monday, July 11, 2016

The boy who wasn't supposed to walk learns to tap dance

So, this happened: Max is learning how to tap dance.

Let me just say, boyfriend has always had good rhythm and is really fond of dancing (not to mention stomping). People with disabilities have all kinds of abilities. I've gotten sensitive to the fact that sometimes we unnecessarily glorify them for various acts, and in doing so insinuate that they are not otherwise competent. So this rave is not about the fact that Max is capable of tap dancing.

But to this mom, the one who sat in the NICU 13 years ago and listened to a grim-faced pediatric neurologist say that her boy might never walk, it is a spectacular and unique milestone. ("Child will learn to tap dance" said no baby book ever.)

And to this mom, the one who's realized that kids with special needs often face more closed doors than open ones when it comes to mainstream activities and programs, it's heartening that the dance school owner was open-minded about lessons from the first email I sent.

Maybe this doesn't see like such a big deal because we did a private lesson. But trust me when I say that a lot of schools and teachers wouldn't have been receptive.

Kaela talked to Max, not down to him. She let him wear the tap shoes she's had since she was 12. He had an entire studio, with a wall-to-wall mirror, to himself. And that's all I know about how things went, because Max informed me that I was not allowed to watch. We agreed, however, that I could come in at the end.

So I sat in the lounge. Well, for a few minutes. Dave stopped by, and together we peeked in except Max spotted us, grinned and shook has head. Busted.

At the end of the lesson, as promised, Max came and got me to show what he'd learned. Kaela had chosen one of his favorite songs, Happy. And I watched this boy dance. And he was so happy and proud of himself. And I was so happy and proud of him.

Then Max asked about coming back next week, which he will be. I bought him tap shoes. If he wants to practice a lot, I'll be sending him to your homes, k?

When I gave the school, the owner and Kaela a shout out on our local Facebook page, I noted that often people think it takes a lot of doing to accommodate kids with special needs, but the truth is it mostly takes an open mindset. I said that it's wonderful to see your child enjoying himself, but it's just as wonderful to see others welcoming your child with special needs.

Before we left, Max asked about being in the show at the end of the year, which is what started this. When he saw Sabrina's performance, he decided he had to try tap—and he had to be in the show next year.

Usually, they don't have private-lesson kids performing in the show. But Kaela? She said, "Maybe we can do something together. We'll see."


  1. That video is awesome! I don't know you or Max, but I follow your blog because of my grandson (10, non-verbal, autism spectrum, didn't walk until age 3), but I have a big, teary grin on my face right now because I know what this means to you and to Max. So much I could say, but really, just enjoying watching this right now. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Well, as an autistic flutist that wants to be a trap singer, I consider this an EPIC win.

  3. Channeling his inner Fred Astaire! Go Max go!

  4. Oh man, his face during this just makes my whole day!!

  5. Max you did such a wonderful job! And I'm sure you will just continue to improve. You are definitely beating the odds and that is something to be proud of

  6. Having CP myself, and now in my 30's, I'm loving that you can even email and feel comfortable with the idea that max should be doing typical childhood classes like this. This made my week already. Go Max. It's so heartening to see that SOME things do change for the better. It only takes a little willingness to try all around.

  7. This video has me totally smiling! Loved it! Especially the Thriller dance! I'm an 80's girl! You did great, Max!

  8. Wow great tapping Max. From someone who has a hard time getting left foot right foot don't step on the teachers toes.

  9. This brought tears to my eyes, truly.

  10. Again, I'm in awe of Max! This literally brought tears of joy to my eyes! Kaela was awesome with him!

  11. Go Max!

    Mindset - and action!

    I can see you and K owned that room.

  12. I can't believe it's only his first lesson and there he is, diving right in!!

  13. He's in his element. One of the best videos you've ever posted!

  14. Ellen, boyfriend looks like he's GOT IT! Personally I think Max has more rhythm than I do in my pinky finger; my sister took tap lessons but I couldn't do it worth a toot. Good for Max, and I can't wait to see more video of him dancing!


Thanks for sharing!

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