With his twinkling eyes and impish grin, Marco Lagerman steals the heart of just about everyone he meets, but life hasn’t always been easy for the Windsor Terrace four-year-old, who was born with unilateral hearing loss.
“There are different degrees of hearing loss,” Marco’s mother, Teresa, explained, “and you can have it in both ears or just one, which is Marco’s case. He’s lucky because his good ear helps him compensate.”
Persistent ear infections and fluid buildup also affected Marco’s hearing, and significantly delayed both his language and motor development.
“The main issue was with his speech, which developed very slowly,” Teresa said. “Even though he’s always been a very friendly, happy kid, as he got older it was hard for him to start a conversation with children his age, or ask them to play.
“It also affected his balance,” she added. “He was a pretty clumsy toddler.”
Despite these developmental delays, one thing that has always managed to resonate with Marco is music.
“He has always been incredibly passionate about music and dancing,” said Teresa, “to the point where he’d stop walking on the street to dance to the loud music of a passing car. Or just because.
“He’s not shy when it comes to showing off his moves,” she continued. “He really has a great ear for music and just feels it. He can’t stop himself.”
Marco entered Pre-K at TLC, an integrated preschool for both special needs and general education students located at 1728 8th Avenue at 18th Street, in September of 2014. It didn’t take long for his teacher, Shivani Rawat, to pick up on his love for music.
“Shivani was always trying to come up with ways to encourage him to participate more,” Teresa said. “When he started singing ‘Octopus’s Garden’ by The Beatles one day at physical therapy, they printed the lyrics and started singing the song during music class.”
“My children love music and they love dancing,” explained Shivani. “I always made music and dance part of my daily routine. They express themselves through dance and any other movement.
“It gives them a break from sitting at a table or on the carpet,” she continued. “They love seeing teachers dancing. They love seeing each other dancing. It’s a way to get their ‘sillies’ out where they may get a little fidgety.”
Always a bit shy at school, this incorporation of familiar music really helped Marco to open up in the classroom, and he began interacting more and more with his fellow students.
Thrilled with his progress, Teresa told Marco’s teachers about his obsession with “Story of My Life,” by One Direction. Shivani immediately purchased a Kidz Bop CD that included a version of the song, and began playing the CD in class.
“We would play it here and there, and he would sway to the music,” said Shivani, “but one day he just broke out in this dance move and we were all so surprised. That is how ‘The Marco’ started.”
“At first the children would ask me to put the song on just to see Marco dancing to it,” she recalled. “Then they started attempting it, and eventually the whole class was into it.”
“Marco would listen to lyrics,” Shivani said, “and yell, ‘Here it comes guys…get ready,’ and as the chorus started, they would all do ‘The Marco.’
“Marco was the happiest kid in the class,” she added. “You can see how he is smiling in the video. He loves the attention. He loves that his friends are part of his song and dance.”
“The day Shivani shared the video of the class doing ‘The Marco,’ I was so beyond proud of him,” said Teresa. “There was the kid who could not bend his knees while standing when he was a year old, who was shy about asking other kids to play because he didn’t have the words.
“He feels supported and loved at school,” she continued, “and that, along with his wonderful speech and physical therapists, is making him thrive.”
Teresa shared the videos of Marco’s dance on Facebook, and received an incredible response from friends and family.
“Everyone loved it,” she laughed. “So many people told me that they watched it a few times because it just made them happy.”
It wasn’t until friends began sending her videos of their kids doing Marco’s dance, though, that Teresa realized they had a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other special needs children. Along with her husband, Brent, she set up a Fundly campaign, encouraging people to #DoTheMarco, as they raise money for special education classrooms on DonorsChoose.org.
“We are very thankful to have so many resources available in New York for special needs children,” Teresa said. “Unfortunately that’s not the case in other states, and we want to raise money to help fund physical, occupational, and speech therapy projects in schools across the country.”
The campaign launched on March 7, with a $500 goal. At the time of this post, #DoTheMarco has already surpassed that total, with $605, and the Lagerman family couldn’t be happier.
“The more we raise, the more school projects we can fund,” said Teresa.
For more information, to make a donation, or to follow the campaign’s progress, be sure to visit Teresa’s Fundly campaign page. Help spread the word, have some fun, and #DoTheMarco!