“’Ciera you are beautiful,’ ‘Ciera, I love you so much,’ ‘Ciera you sing beautifully.’ These are the words of affirmation my daughter hears on the daily… from her best friend Connor. To know the love of a special needs individual is to know the true meaning of pure love. They hug you so hard it sinks into your soul. They laugh and enjoy life so much that it forces you to embrace the moment. For many years I questioned, ‘WHY was I chosen to be the mom to a Special Needs child? I am so ill prepared. There are so many other families that would be doing such a better job than me.’

But now I realize, I can SEE, I was one of the lucky ones! I was CHOSEN to be her mom. I was BLESSED with the ability to see life so purely and innocently through her. I am ALLOWED to be HER mom and witness THESE moments like this between Connor and Ciera! To say my heart burst with joy when he twirled Ciera around in her dress is an understatement! I GET the OPPORTUNITY to share their energy and innocence with the world!

For many, many, many years I prayed that one day God would give my daughter someone who saw her as the treasure she truly was. For a long time, she struggled with her place in this world and with finding true friendship. You see, my daughter Ciera was not always special needs. In fact, for most of her elementary years she was in mainstream classrooms. That is until the 3rd grade when a dramatic health variation changed our lives forever.

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Ciera was born with a genetic mutation that caused her to have multiple types of seizures. (To make things even crazier, she’s the only one in the world with this mutation! She is truly one of a kind!) In the 3rd grade she began having complex partial seizures lasting up to 45 minutes that eventually caused brain damage that left her permanently on a 3rd grade cognitive level. The other children still loved her, but didn’t understand why she didn’t develop and mature like they did. We soon found the invites to stay the night ceased and the birthday party invitations stopped coming. My heart and spirit were broken. Although she was still always SO HAPPY, she was still alone. She didn’t have that one friend she could rely on. I often cried myself to sleep and worried excessively. Next thing I knew, high school was on the horizon and I was terrified she was going into it all alone. Little did I know – there was a plan in store for her.

Going into high school, we had determined that due to her plateau in learning and development, the best thing for her was to put her into a special needs classroom permanently. This is where she met the most handsome young man who rocked his extra chromosome! When she walked into their classroom, she was looking for a friend. He swooped in and saved her from living life alone, to being a part of togetherness and love. Down syndrome had nothing on Connor, and he quickly latched onto Ciera and the friendship grew fast and feverishly!

Before I knew it they began Face-timing NON-STOP. They began eating lunch together every day. Sundays we met for ice cream. She began to FLOURISH! The love that Connor has for Ciera is exactly what I prayed for. He is constantly complimenting her, checking in on her to make sure everyone was being kind, and when she is sick, he worries obsessively over her.

To make things even better, Connor brought along his group of friends… all boys of course! All whom have the same love for Ciera as Connor does! They fight over who gets to sit next to her. They get mad if one of them is not nice to her. They ADORE her! And it’s all because of Connor. Ciera truly is the ‘rock’ of their group. She keeps them in line, makes sure they are being well-behaved and always nurtures their every needs. She was kind of their missing link.

Last year, right before prom, we discovered Ciera’s spine was twisting and needed scoliosis surgery quickly. Prom was out of the question for her. She was devastated but we had no choice. The day before, Connor brought over a basket full of her favorite things. He played games with her to help keep her mind off things and he even teared up as he left. He was overwhelmed with stress and worry for his friend.

The day of her surgery, their teacher reached out to me and asked as soon she was out of surgery to please let her know because ‘Ciera’s boys’ were so worried that they weren’t getting any work done!

As she healed, they would FaceTime her and shed a few tears when they saw she wasn’t up to her normal, happy self. All the while, she would constantly reassure them she was OK and to not worry about her because she would be back soon! The love these kids have for each other is out of this world.

Since prom was out of the question for Ciera last year, we KNEW we had to make this one amazing! The plan for Ciera and Connor to attend together was a NO BRAINER!

The prom dress shopping began and Connor anxiously awaited putting on his tux. We had to be sure we got the ‘perfect shade of pink’ for her nails, and since heels are out of the question, a sparkly pair of Converse did the trick!

In true form, even while Ciera was busy getting hair and makeup, Connor and she FaceTimed. They were so excited to be getting to enjoy the same ritual as every other teenager does this time of year.

When picture time came, you could just see the sparkle in Connor’s eyes. He. Was. SMITTEN! Ciera looked beautiful and he was equally as dapper.

He made sure to open the door for her and made sure she got in the car carefully without messing up her dress. The florist did an amazing job making sure the boutonniere and corsage where created so they could easily put it on each other without mom’s help. Connor told her she could pick wherever she wanted to eat for dinner. She chose her favorite… Chick-Fil-A.

During the dance I was FLOODED with messages and texts from all the senior girls about how much fun they were having with Connor and Ciera! They were indeed the stars of the show! The non-stop dancing, talking and Ciera’s favorite, ‘the teeny tiny cupcakes,’ made it a night they will never forget! They rocked their #designergenes and killed it on the dance floor! And in true chivalrous form… Connor walked her to the door at the end of the night.

I am pretty sure neither one of them stopped smiling all night long. Connor and Ciera are the epitome of ‘Love is patient, love is kind,’ and this world needs more of this. I hope your prom was as amazing as theirs!”

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