Prom is a rite of passage for high school seniors. But for those with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities, prom is an event from which they are often excluded.

Last month, several special-needs student who attended the Hillsborough High School prom were kicked out early — a mistake that the district chalked up to a misunderstanding.

Elizabeth-based Community Access Unlimited has been  holding this special-needs prom for more than 10 years. The oldest member to attend the prom was 100 and the oldest guest at Friday's prom is 70.

Community organizer Charlene Walker said the group has invited the Hillsborough students to be among the 100 guests Friday at the organization's annual special-needs prom.

Walker said the reason for the prom is because everyone likes to have a good time. But for some with disabilities, they felt shunned, put off in a corner, some were not able to bring dates and many just felt out of place. Friday's two-hour prom at 80 W. Grand St. in Elizabeth gives them a night of music and dancing with their peers.

"We always invite people from the greater community in hopes that they'll come to show that there's no reason for them to be shunned from this right of passage," said Walker.

The theme for Friday's prom, which kicks off at 6 p.m., is Bring Back the 90s.

The DJ for the evening is someone with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or as they prefer to be described, different abilities.

There won't be a prom king or queen, said Walker. Instead they'll give out awards for best dressed. The idea is to lift people up and not exclude two people to be king and queen.

The prom is being thrown by CAU's self-advocacy group, The New American Movement for People with Disabilities.

Celebrating its 40th year, CAU supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU serves more than 5,000 individuals and their families.

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