Jemma Smedley, 38, Ilkeston, Derbyshire explains how her son found an unlikely key to communicating...
My son William was 9 months old when strange things started to happen.
When I picked him up, his whole body would stiffen. His eyes flickered, and he couldn’t sit up or smile.
‘Something’s not right,’ I said to my hubby Richard, 42.
Our GP referred us to an epilepsy specialist at Derby Children’s Hospital.
We were admitted, and the next day he was hooked up to an EEG machine. Within half an hour, he had 17 seizures.
Tests revealed William had epilepsy.
‘It will slow down his development,’ we were warned.
William didn’t start toddling until he was 2, and mumbling at 4, not forming proper words but we came to understand him.
At 5, he was diagnosed with learning difficulties and autism. Still having seizures, he was on medication to try to control them.
I wanted to wrap William in cotton wool – but he was into everything!
He started at a mainstream school, but found it impossible to cope. When he was 7, he went to a special school, where he still struggled to communicate, even with speech therapy.
But that all changed after I went to see Olly Murs in Sheffield in 2014.
I came away a huge fan, buying Olly’s album to play in the car. William loved it, and danced along. Soon, we had it on for every journey.
Then, months later…
‘Bacon and eggs!’ William shouted suddenly.
I froze. Did he just speak?
‘Well done!’ I said.
What was he trying to tell me? Was he hungry?
‘Bacon and eggs!’ he repeated.
Then it clicked. It was from Olly Murs’ song Busy.
The lyrics go, Weekends in bed, no scramble eggs or bacon. Close enough!
Then William started watching Olly’s videos online. We bought him a trilby, and he copied his dance moves, too. For a boy who couldn’t balance six months earlier, he was now spinning on one leg!
We even started using Olly’s songs as speech therapy.
And it worked! William started having conversations.
His confidence soared, and, last year, he sang Olly’s song Dear Darling in the school talent contest, and won!
In March, we bought tickets to see our idol at Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham.
‘I want to meet him,’ William insisted, excited.
We waited and waited until, after four hours, a van arrived and Olly stepped out – only, he disappeared inside the venue.
But suddenly he returned, came over and gave William a huge hug!
I burst into tears.
‘I want to thank you,’ I cried to him. ‘He only learned to talk because of you!’
That earned me a big hug, too!
We took hundreds of photos, which take pride of place.
Now 11, William’s never stopped talking about Olly.
As a parent, you feel lost when your child’s been diagnosed with autism. But my message to them is to never give up.
Olly’s song Wrapped Up makes me cry, with the lyrics, You got the lock, I got the key.
Turns out Olly was William’s very special key.