This “In Their Own Words” is by Denise Corbin-Kumar, of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is the mother of two boys, one, Evan, has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS, but his school’s testing showed Asperger Syndrome.
My younger son, Evan, has been a challenging child. He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was about 5, but up until that point, I just knew that something wasn’t quite right with that kid. He was hyper, into everything, and stubborn. But he was also very loving, very coordinated, and he loved music. When he couldn’t talk, he could sing, and U2 was one of Evan’s favorites.
Evan and U2 go way back. When Evan was 4 months old, the CD “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” was released. We bought it as we left my sister Jenni’s house in Meadville, PA and listened to it all of the way back to Indiana. Everyday when I’d drive Alex to school, I’d listen to that cd, come home singing the songs, and put Evan down for his afternoon nap. I noticed that the song “Walk On” was my choice song to sing, as I rocked him to sleep. As Evan got older, he’d fuss until I started singing that song to him. It seemed to calm him down, so I kept singing it to him everyday. It worked for both of us!
About a year later, the U2 Live in Boston DVD hit the shelves, and Evan loved it! He’d be sitting on the floor in front of the TV, sucking his thumb, and holding a cloth diaper in his hand, watching Bono. If I turned the TV off, or changed the channel, he’d cry and throw a fit! So, I just left it on, and we were both happy!
The song “Beautiful Day” became another one of Evan’s favorites at this time. At age 2, Evan could barely talk, but he’d hum along with the U2 songs, and sometimes he’d sing the end of the phrases. When I’d put him in his bed to sleep, we’d sing a lot of U2 songs, but “Beautiful Day” was one he’d always be happy to hear. I knew that I could use music to teach him how to communicate with people so he wasn’t so mad all of the time.
As U2 released more cd’s, Evan learned the songs and sang along. He didn’t refer to U2 as “U2”, but he called them “Bodo” and when he could speak more clearly, “Bono”. One of his favorite songs is “Out of Control”, and when Evan gets, as he calls it, “that wild feeling inside”, he’ll just sing out like Bono “I’m out of control!!”
We decided that we were going to take Evan to a U2 concert. I had worried for a long time that Evan wouldn’t be able to handle the loud noise of the concert or the huge crowd. Neither of these things were a problem for him. The stage was huge, with lights everywhere. Evan really, really LOVES lights! (He wants to turn them all on, all the time, everywhere we go!)
So, when the woman at the U2 concert said very loudly to her male companion “I’d NEVER bring my kid to a concert like this!!” I yelled at her “why not??” She looked away from me when she heard my reply. She wouldn’t understand anyway! In fact, there were quite a few kids at the concert, so I guess I’m not the only one who wanted to share a great night with my kids.
When U2 finally took the stage on Saturday night, Evan was just screaming “Bono, I’m here to see you” and waiving his hands with huge eyes and a wide smile on his face! The first song they sang is from the new cd, and Evan said “Mom, that’s the song I play on my cd player in my room at night”. Then they played “Beautiful Day” and Evan could not contain his happiness any longer. He sang all of the words, and threw his hands into the air just like everyone else in the crowd. I guess I shouldn’t have worried about him not having a great time!
I watched Evan enjoy his favorite band, sometimes watching him more than the show on the stage. When they played the song “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”, they changed it to a dance mix, and Evan was dancing around like he was at a disco. He enjoyed the show just as much as the old people like me who can still remember the first time we heard “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “Pride.”
Evan kept looking up into the sky at the lights from the stage that were shooting beams of lights into the clouds. He looked at me and asked, “Mommy, is that heaven?” I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I said, “Where, up in the sky?” and Evan said, “No, everywhere here?” I didn’t know how to answer such a question, and I was a little choked up by it. I said, “Well, maybe it is to some people.” Evan replied, “Yeah, that’s what I thought!” I told my husband, Sam, what Evan had said and he just shook his head with a smile on his face and said “That Evan!”
So, when you ask Evan how he liked seeing Bono or how he liked the U2 concert, he’ll probably just say “it was good,” but don’t be fooled. He LOVED it!! Just before the show ended, as he was standing on my chair, leaning into my back so he didn’t fall while he was dancing, Evan put his arms around my neck and said “Mommy, I LOVE this concert! Thank you for bringing me to see Bono!”
It was completely worth the expensive tickets to hear those words, spoken so clearly into my ear, by a boy who not so long ago couldn’t talk, but could always sing the songs that he loved by his favorite band!
“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to email@example.com. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.