MULBERRY, Fla. — A Mulberry family with a child with autism is celebrating what truly seems like a holiday miracle for them this season: the child, up to this point nonverbal, speaking unprompted for the first time thanks to a neighbor's holiday light display.
- Kaitlyn DeJesus, 13, has Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Kaitlyn dances, taps her feet, smiles, sings to music timed with lights
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For the past 10 years, Marisabel Figueroa and her daughter, Kaitlyn DeJesus, have been making a nightly walk during the holiday season.
They go a few doors down to their neighbor Don Weaver's house on Marquis Lane in Mulberry to see more than 100,000 lights that he has on display to music in his yard.
"This actually warms my heart because he takes his time to put up all these lights," said Figueroa.
But as Figueroa stands and watches her daughter taking it all in, she's moved to tears.
"It's like a miracle to me to hear my daughter's voice," she said.
DeJesus, 13, has Autism Spectrum Disorder and her mom said she's nonverbal.
However, Figueroa said the lights inspired her to speak unprompted for the first time.
"I just cry, because listening to her point out a bunch of stuff like the blue lights, the snowman, Santa Claus, it's just so rewarding to me."
DeJesus also dances, taps her feet, smiles and sings to the music.
Her mother said it's become a form of therapy for her.
"There is hope for kids out there with autism who are nonverbal. There's different ways to get them to be verbal, so you just have to find a way," she said.
While DeJesus responds well to the lights and sounds, experts said that may not be the case for everyone with autism spectrum disorder.
They have said the goal is to find what brings each individual joy and then come up with ways to work that into their lives.
For DeJesus and Figueroa, the display makes their holidays.
"This is my best Christmas gift," said Figueroa.