Girl with Autism Sings with Katy Perry

I don’t usually cry over viral videos, but this one got me:

Maybe it was the motivational lyrics to “Firework” paired with this girl’s struggle with autism. Maybe it was the parents saying they had basically given up all their dreams for their daughter when she was diagnosed with autism at age 2.

Whatever it was, I found myself watching misty eyed as this girl belted out her favorite song with idol Katy Perry.

I was on a feel-good, kumbaya high until I turned to the comment portions of some articles. I was surprised to see that some responders were irked by the video (though most were crying like I was). They said they also had children with autism and were tired of seeing videos and reports of children with autism who also had genius abilities. Others said it’s too bad that children with autism have to have some special talent to get any media attention for the disorder.

The comments kind of killed my feel-good buzz. But they also started me thinking about how we often are shown videos and news reports of children with autism that do amazing things. That must be difficult for parents of children who have autism but don’t also have a photographic memory or uncanny ability to sing on key. They won’t sing on stage one day, or they may never even talk.

I’m torn on this because I think those amazing kids should be showcased. Why should their talents be hidden because not everyone on the autism spectrum has them?

I think the central issue here is that the same standards don’t and shouldn’t apply to everyone. Maybe this young girl singing with Katy Perry is amazing for her. But another child simply making eye contact and smiling at her father may be a firework moment for that family. One is not better or more amazing than another.

One of the best parts of this video for me is when the father says he realized that he didn’t have to put limits on his daughter. Her autism wasn’t the dream-killer diagnosis he thought it was. His dreams for his daughter were different, but they weren’t dead.

And to me, that’s the key. It’s not about who is more talented or more autistic or more “normal,” but about each child becoming the absolute happiest and most successful person he or she can be.

What was your response to this video? If autism has touched your family, how do you push your children to be their personal best?

12 comments

  1. Laurie Williams

    The benefit was for educational programs for children with autism. It was also an evening of entertainment. How perfect that a child with autism was able to join other entertainers and showcase her talent! That little girl and her parents worked very hard for many, many years, and it seems trite that anyone would want to deny any child a chance at their dreams. All of my friends who have children with autism, children that have various ranges on the autism spectrum, were thrilled by the brilliant performance of this child as were their children!!! Thank God for schools like the Alpine Learning Group. They should be proud!

  2. John Charity Spring

    Stewart has completely missed the point here. The point is not whether this video was cute or entertaining. The point is that this video is nothing more than shameful exploitation of a handicapped child.

    The so-called singer in this video uses her music to promote substance abuse and uncontrolled sexuality. Indeed, she has taken the promotion of deviant immorality to a whole new level. Featuring this unfortunate child in a few minutes of video is nothing more than an exploitive attempt to fool the parents of America into thinking that there is nothing objectionable in Perry’s music or character.

    As a mother, Stewart should have been the first to condemn this publicity stunt. Mothers should not let filth into their homes, no matter how seemingly entertaining it is.

    • Katie Miller

      Are you calling this girl “unfortunate” because she has autism? That seems pretty harsh. She’s a little girl who got to meet a singer. I don’t think we need to look much deeper than that.

    • shawnm750

      So, because Katy has different values than you and chooses to sing songs that reflect those values, she’s incapable of using her talents to support a worthy cause, without having some ulterior motive? Honestly John, I don’t think the parents of America were paying much attention to Ms. Perry. I think it could have just as easily could’ve been Willie Nelson singing, and most people would still be in awe of this girl’s incredible accomplishment.

      I don’t approve of all that Katy Perry does, but I respect the fact that she has different values than me, as well as her right to express herself. And more importantly I respect her and all the other artists and performers who took time to promote a worthy cause. It’s not up to us to second guess their motives, and frankly I think it’s (to use your own word) unfortunate that you choose to see it that way.

  3. Nick

    Heart touching story! This country needs more stars like Katy, more persistent parents and more winners like the little girl!

  4. Dina Mousa

    You hit the nail on the head when you said that there are milestones that we parents look for that arent extraordinary to anyone but us. For example, my 7 year old daughter has Autism and is still in diapers and non verbal. The other day, she finally said mama and it was so intense and meaningful. She also finally understood for the first time in her life when we sang Happy Birthday to her and smiled, and then was embarassed. It was a beautiful moment. Thank you for sharing this beautiful video and giving us hope for our kids. I pray that my daughter will just speak one day! <3

    • Erin Stewart

      Dina,

      What a wonderful example. I’m so happy for your firework moments and glad you enjoyed the video! – Erin

  5. Proud Nana

    I’m the proud Nana of four grandkids. Each one is special in their own individual ways – the oldest, “J” (at the age of 10) has autism. The second born, “A”, as has neurological problems. My two grand daughters (A & L), are “normal”, but we like to think of them all as being special. We were told when J was 4 that he might never speak, or be able to do the most basic of things, like dress himself, become potty trained, etc… I prayed that I lived to hear him say “Hi Nana – I love you!” I thought I would have to wait for years and years. He called out to me, upon my arrival for a visit and said “Hi Nana!” and before I left, he hugged me and said ”
    I love you!” I loved your article and I agree with you. Treasure the small things as much as the large. That goes for the “afflicted child” as well as the “normal child”.

  6. David

    Every child has abilities and skills that make him/her unique. Autism does not define the child, it merely alters the perspective by which they view this world, and it also makes the child unique and special. Raising a child who also happens to have autism is not easy but the rewards that come along with the challenges are so amazing! I am so happy for this girl and her parents to be able to have this wonderful experience, and I thank everyone involved in making it a reality. I hope and pray that my own special daughter who also has autism will have similar joys and triumphs in her lifetime.

  7. Derek

    No, Joan Charity Spring. It is you, who has missed the point. You clearly miss the point of art of life.

    “Firework” is a song, music, art and is therefore, open to interpretation. Regardless of what one may think this song is about, it is clearly presented in the most positive way possible regarding human spirit. If, as you are watching this performance, you can only see a girl singing about drug abuse and uncontrolled sexuality then I truly feel sorry for you. Because when I witnessed this performance, I saw…

    Someone inspire hundreds of thousands.
    Someone raise awareness of an important cause.
    A gracious Katy Perry treat her stage mate with the highest caliber of respect.

    By stating this to be an exploitation, you have attempted to rob this girl of her great moment. I will not let you get away with this! Please, despite our freedom of speech… Stop commenting, now. Or start thinking before you do.

  8. olgarina molina

    I also have a child born with austim and I remember when he was not diagnosed and the lack of speach, the tantrums, the hiting, the doctors visits..etc..then the labeling and going thru de school system trying to understand how to get the best for ur child…getting informed. The speach theraphy helped the best, he still has problem socially , he has no friends and he is extremely interested in dinasours,sharks and Disney movies but he is a happy child, very formal and understanding. really a blessing..

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