A chance to dance, a chance to celebrate

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Music and dancing: two things many people take for granted.

The “Chance to Dance” event on Saturday was about more than just dancing. It was about living in the moment.

Three years ago, Courtney Garcia, a graduate speech-language pathology student, started the event at TCU. Her goal was to give individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities the chance to enjoy a prom-like experience. The night was complete with a DJ and photo booth.

Unlike most high school and college dances, people of all ages enjoyed the music as their family members looked on, cell phones in hand, to capture every moment.

“I really get to see beyond the autism and who he really is,” said Sabra Young, who watched her 27-year-old son Shakir as he danced. “He loves all types of music and he loves to dance. He’s kind of shy, but he comes out of his shell when he’s here.”

Sonja Kyle, a mother whose son is autistic, said events like Chance to Dance are important.

“Even though socially they may have a problem, they still love getting together,” Kyle said. “Even if its next to each other and not necessarily interacting.”

While parents watched from afar, student volunteers from TCU’s Speech-Language Pathology program interacted with the guests, taking pictures in the photo booth and dancing to the music.

Attendees found out about “Chance to Dance” because they are clients at TCU’s acclaimed Miller Speech and Hearing Clinic.

Many speech-pathology majors are also members of National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA), an organization that Garcia partnered with when she started Chance to Dance.

After Garcia graduated, she wanted to ensure that “Chance to Dance” would continue. This year, NSSLHA president Ashley Goodsell was in charge of the event.

“We wanted to keep continuing to do it because we saw how happy it made the individuals who came to the dance,” Goodsell said.

More than 40 guests attended this year. By the end of the night, parents and caretakers had made their way onto the dance floor as well.

“I feel like a lot of times we get caught up in our busy lives and we take for granted some of the little special moments,” Goodsell said.

For the dancers at Saturday’s event, it was a time of joy, laughter and celebration.

“This gives people an opportunity to come here and celebrate themselves, their qualities, their accomplishments, and everything they have going for them,” Garcia said. “Just to see the impact that something like this can make is so cool.”