Kaitlyn DeJesus was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder ten years ago when she was just three years old. She’s been mostly non-verbal her entire life, speaking only to repeat information when prompted and singing along to her favorite songs. But a recent visit to a neighbor’s Christmas display changed all of that.
“Look at the blue lights!” Kaitlyn exclaimed, with the first unprompted words of her life. Marisabel Figueroa, Kaitlyn’s mom, says the moment came “totally out of the blue.” It’s particularly surprising because they’ve been visiting the impressive display put up by their Mulberry, Florida neighbor Don Weaver since Kaitlyn was three.
Figueroa and her daughter are such stalwarts at his display that Weaver lets the family know when the lights are about to go up for the season so they can get a sneak peek before the rest of the neighborhood. And once they’re up, Kaitlyn and her mom visit every night once it gets dark, staying for a few cycles of the songs before heading home.
Kaitlyn’s case is interesting because many individuals with autism don’t react well to loud music and bright or blinking lights. Sensory-friendly events are held around the country during the holidays, but Figueroa says they’ve never been necessary for her Christmas-obsessed daughter.
“You would think the loud music from the Christmas display would bother her — no. You would think that the lights would bother her — no,” Figueroa said.
It’s unclear why exactly Kaitlyn spoke as she did on the night she did, but it seems to have given Figueroa a ray of hoqpe for her daughter’s future a decade after a neurologist told her that Kaitlyn would be non-verbal for her entire life.
“It opened up my child and now I’m actually thinking of putting her in voice and singing lessons. I believe that could be her breakthrough to be vocal.”