Saturday, April 21, 2018

Caring Causes: Unstoppable - A Song for Autism

One in 68 kids in the United States is autistic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.

To recognize World Autism month, Tommy Byrne and his seven-year-old goddaughter, Isabella Guerriero, wrote the song Unstoppable - A Song for Autism together after Byrne introduced the idea to Isabella during his weekly visit with her older brother Anthony, who was diagnosed with autism at 2 and a half, and is now 10 years old. 

The inspiration for the song is based on Anthony’s ability to inspire everyone in his family. In less than a half hour, Tommy and Isabella had a song, which Byrne posted on his Facebook account. The song has been viewed over one million times on social media and shared by Autism Speaks, the National Autism Association, the Autism Society of AmericaAutism Hope AllianceSurfers Healing and a number of powerful Facebook groups with millions of followers.

The song was produced and engineered by Grammy-nominated producer Arty Skye in New York City and mastered by the legendary Herb Powers Jr. The two combined have worked with icons in the business, including Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys and more.

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to various autism charities, including but not limited, to Surfers HealingAutism Speaks, and those listed above.

I had a chance to interview Tommy to learn more.

Why did you decide to write this song?
I decided to write this song because I wanted to write a song for a family member who I love very much. Anthony has been in all of our lives for 10 years and we all have been with him through the ups and downs. I never wanted to write a song for him unless it came to me. One night on my ride home from work, the opening lyrics came into my head and the rest, as they say was history. I wanted to finish it with his sister, Isabella, because she is wise beyond her years and just recently started singing and playing the guitar. I wanted to incorporate a kids perspective to the song and see what she would come up with as well. She’s seen all his ups and downs as well and I knew she would connect instantly with it once I suggested to her what we really wanted to write about. How Anthony and his friends on the spectrum inspire us every day. A lot of people have written really great songs about autism, but I never heard one that says “We understand you, we hear you, we will be there for you no matter what.”
Did you expect the response?
Following our original video back in January and the response that received, I never expected that. I was worried that people would be expecting the same thing though with the produced one. But the song was so close to me and hit so close to home, I wanted to make it even more special and have a lot of music and power behind it. Our original video from January was shared all around, but not internationally. The Irish Post, which is the longest running newspaper in Ireland, shared this one. The response from overseas for two kids from Jersey has been overwhelming. This was something that Bella and I do regularly. I would usually just pick up a guitar and make up a song on the fly just to get some laughs with her. But we never tackled such a serious song like this one. We never ever expected this amount of love though.
How can extended family members support families raising children with autism?
Extended family members can support families raising children with autism very simply. Just accept them like you would with any other child in the family. All of Anthony’s little cousins even get him involved and he receives the same respect and love from them through the oldest in the family. We never exclude or think that Anthony cannot do an activity or take part in a family vacation because of sensory difficulties. We know his limitations and don’t push him if he isn’t comfortable with anything. 

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