ST. PETERS, Mo. — The bond between 18-year-old cousins Janiya Cato and Corey McDorsey is undeniable. The two were born just six months apart and grew up together.
“I would consider him one of my best friends,” Janiya said. “I love my cousin very much.”
“Since they were little, he’s always lit up when he sees Janiya. He just loves her. They’ve always had this special bond. It’s just something with those two,” said Twanna Tucker, Corey’s mother and Janiya’s aunt.
She said Corey has autism and a form of cerebral palsy. Even though he is non-verbal, Janiya finds herself talking to him all the time.
“I know he’s listening,” Janiya said. “I don’t think I really noticed a difference in my cousin until sixth grade, and that’s when I asked a lot of questions.”
Janiya’s mom, Tasha Cato, and her aunt, Twanna Tucker, said Janiya was also asking questions as a kid. But there’s one question she asked in sixth grade that caught them off guard.
“‘Auntie Tutu, does Corey get a prom?’ I said, ‘No his school doesn’t have a prom.’ I was just kind of blowing her off. She said, ‘Well, I’m going to take Corey to prom.’ The promise in sixth grade was repeated year after year. And on Saturday, 18-year-old Janiya Cato fulfilled the promise she made 6 years ago.
She went all out too, with a “proposal” at Corey’s school that included a poster, balloons, and his favorite snacks.
“I said, ‘Hey Corey. I know you don’t really understand what’s going on, but I’m asking you to prom buddy.’ And he ran over to his mom and started clapping,” she said. “I went over there and started clapping, and I said, ‘Clap if you want to go prom with me.'”
Corey communicated often by clapping and the family said Corey is always clapping when he’s with Janiya.
From the “proposal,” to the matching tux and dress and a photographer, it was a prom night the entire family won’t forget.
“We had an incredible time. I danced my life away. He danced his life away. I slow danced with him, and I shed tears, and we just had such an amazing time,” Janiya said. “I was crying at prom on the dance floor looking at my cousin because to see the pure joy on his face, you could see it. I just broke down.”
She was also on prom court for Fort Zumwalt East High School. While she didn’t win prom queen, there’s no doubt Corey still sees her as royalty.
“This is an experience that every kid should experience whether you have autism or not,” she said.