4-year-old boy with nonverbal autism begins to speak thanks to “Old Town Road”

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When Billy Ray Cyrus decided join Lil Nas X on his hit single “Old Town Road,” the country star said the hip hop artist was a “light in this world.” While the song is popular all across the United States, Lil Nas X brought that light to one person in particular: A mom from Minnesota says “Old Town Road” helped her 4-year-old son with nonverbal autism find his voice.

“‘Old Town Road’ done shined a spotlight on my son,” Sheletta Brundidge tweeted about her son, Daniel. While Daniel usually doesn’t speak, his mom captured him humming the words to “Old Town Road” one day.

The mom saw it as a breakthrough. “I thought, oh my gosh, it’s music, that’s how we reach him,” Brundidge told CBS Minnesota station WCCO, where she is a radio personality and co-host of the Two Haute Mommas podcast. “That’s how we teach him, that’s how he understands.”

Brundidge posted the video of Daniel humming on Twitter, and it quickly went viral. Even Lil Nas X himself saw the inspiring video, calling Daniel a “king.”

Brundidge said her son’s therapists are now incorporating music into their sessions.  “They’re using it in his therapy to get him to learn what they need him to learn, and everything’s been going so quick,” she said.

Like in many homes across America, “Old Town Road” is a staple in the Brundidge house. Daniel’s siblings love to sing the song, too. 

The song gained widespread attention when Billboard removed it from its country chart, saying the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.” Lil Nas X then recruited country singer Billy Ray Cyrus for the remix of his viral hit.

Cyrus apparently related, tweeting that he had seen what happened to “Old Town Road” on the Billboard country chart before. “When I got thrown off the charts, Waylon Jennings said to me ‘Take this as a compliment’ means you’re doing something great! Only Outlaws are outlawed. Welcome to the club!” Cyrus wrote. Their collaboration made the song bigger than ever, and sparked conversations about the role of race in defining music genres.

Kids around the country glommed on to the song. Lil Nas X even visited an elementary school in Ohio after seeing a video of students there dancing to the hit during their talent show. 

Now, Daniel’s mom hopes what she calls their “‘Old Town Road’ miracle” prompts a visit from Lil Nas X and Cyrus, too. “Lil Daniel X” now has a karaoke microphone to sing into, and he’s waiting for the two artist to stop by and perform with him someday, Brundidge tweeted.

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