Dear Groovy Community,

Thank you are two of the most simplistic words that are written in this moment filled with such sincere gratitude. Team Sensory Grooves is beyond grateful to you for opening doors and entrusting us to showcase the need for acceptance and inclusion in the Autism Spectrum Disorder and Special Education Needs community; specifically for participants 14-18 years of age. Through the generosity and dedication from our community, the Backer Team, 24 Hour Citizen Project team and Board of Directors, and all those who voted and shared the message of Team Sensory Grooves to be funded for Acadiana’s first sensory-friendly environment, silent disco prom. We thank you for giving us the opportunity to dedicate and to celebrate an evening specifically to those with autism and other sensory challenges.

Team Sensory Grooves is a team dedicated to making the dream of students from Education Destination (a specialty school in Lafayette for students with autism and various learning disabilities) that wanted to be able to attend a prom that is designed specifically for them and their peers in the special needs community of Acadiana. A special night, a special PROM, that is specifically their own. A night, a place, that even for just a few hours they do not have to mask or perform to the social norms of society. Not have to worry of being judged or taunted by those that do not understand who they truly are and the daily challenges they will forever face.

Team Sensory Grooves is composed of educators, parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, an Education Destination alumnus member from the Class of 2022, and other community leaders that have a passion to foster a community of acceptance and inclusion beginning with creating Sensory Grooves: Silent Disco Prom. A night dedicated to the stars of a unique and misunderstood community to become royalty and shine in a friendly and safe environment.

This amazing journey began on the night of November 11, 2023 during the 24 Hour Citizen Project. The Backers Team believed, supported, and funded the dream of Sensory Grooves: Silent Disco Prom. They heard the pitch and chose to entrust us to fulfill the need to make a difference in the lives of an overlooked community. The Backers Team chose Team Sensory Grooves to provide an inclusive prom to provide a safe and friendly environment for our autism and special education needs community to feel accepted, understood, and celebrated.

I am here to share that becoming funded brought about a lot of responsibilities and takes a dedicated team to make a night like Sensory Grooves happen. We are making positive steps forward to meet our goal. We knew that this prom had to happen in April of 2024 as this is Autism Acceptance month in addition to the kick- off of prom season. With this date in mind we also knew that our timeline would be tight. Entering into December we are already feeling the squeeze and it just spurs the excitement of this project that much more. We set out to immediately find a venue that would be open to such a short time frame in addition to ensuring it is an inclusive venue for our participants. After only making a few phone calls we found that there are plenty of event venues that are in our Acadiana area although not many were receptive to our budget and also the short time frame. Believing in the power of yet, we persisted and continued to call and found the perfect venue to host the inaugural evening; Wonderland Performing Arts in Lafayette. We spoke to Mrs. Allison who quickly became part of Team Sensory Grooves as she was so excited to offer the theater as the canvas to create Sensory Grooves: Silent Disco Prom where royalty will shine on April 27, 2024.

Once we had the venue and date booked it was on to search for a company to provide the wireless headphones that make a silent disco. Thanks to one of the experts that assisted us during the 24 Hour Citizen Project, DJ Digital of 107.9, we were able to locate a local business Dohm Collective, to customize the experience as unique as each of our participants.

In the upcoming two months our goal is to finalize the brand/logo to begin promotions. We are also in the process of creating short clips to post through social media of why such a need as Sensory Grooves Prom is important directly from those who dreamt it.

We know we have a lot to do in a very short amount of time. However, our team is dedicated and passionate in making this evening magical. We want and know that this is the first year but we are eager to make this an annual event. We look forward to this becoming the conversation for those 14-18 year olds to start planning at the start of the school year. Opening up a night to look forward to; to connect with old friends and make new friends. A night to share their experiences with others in our Acadiana community. Conversations being had with hopes to open minds that might have once been closed to why there is such a huge need to create environments for events specifically tailored to a unique and misunderstood community.

One day we would love to extend past just one night of prom. Our vision is to create other Sensory Grooves events specifically designed in creating a safe and friendly environment promoting acceptance and inclusiveness for the autism and special education needs community.