Faith, Love & Hope
Daughter’s Autism Drives Park Ridge Family To Pen Song Aiming To Increase Awareness of Disease
By ANDREA ZELINSKI
When three-year-old Candace Waters of Park Ridge stopped waving to people and putting words together, her parents didn’t know what was wrong.
Robert and Sandy Waters didn’t know their first born child had autism, a disease that impairs her ability to communicate.
“We didn’t think it could happen to us,” said Mr. Waters, 45. “We never knew anything about it. No one in our family ever had it.”
Upset and confused, the Waters family had no idea what autism was. Their little girl with beautiful red hair looked fine. She didn’t look disabled when she played on a swing set or swam in a pool. But she didn’t really talk.
They then enrolled her at an early intervention program at Jefferson School for Special Education in Park Ridge. There, both Candace and her parents learned more about what was wrong with her and how they can help.
After Candace was diagnosed, Mr. Waters, a musician and song writer, couldn’t write. He’d play his guitar for his little girl all the time, he said, but he couldn’t bring himself to write a song.
That was until two years later when him and his wife received a letter asking for donations in the name of autism research last Christmas. The message reminded them they “We must have faith, love and hope.”
The message deeply touched Mrs. Waters, 43. She said it inspired both of them to raise greater awareness for autism.
They sat in the basement while their now five-year-old daughter slept. The couple spent the night kicking around words that would end up as song lyrics. Little did they know, the song would reach ears across the country.
“We started talking, we started throwing out words,” said Mrs. Waters, a stay at home mom. “Because they can’t talk, they can’t fight for themselves. You’ve got to be their voice.”
They paired their words with Mr. Water’s lyrics to produce the song “Faith, Love and Hope.”
With lyrics like “We’re in this together, will fight it forever,” and “you’re not alone,” the couple hoped it would be an inspirational song.
“Its really just to bring awareness to people … in whatever way will help them,” said Mr. Waters.
They sent it to all the autism organizations they knew of. Now, many of them use that song and distribute it to their members and donors. Autism One Radio’s manager played the song on one of her shows last month.
The station then asked the couple to perform the song live at the Autism One conference a the Westin O’Hare on May 27.
The song’s lyrics have reached as far as politicians like President George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton and state senator Barack Obama who all wrote letters of appreciation to the Waters family.
Now, the couple’s mission is to increase autism awareness with their music and inspire fellow parents.
The children “look fine, so when your child is screaming and falling on the floor, people think you’re a bad parent,” said Mrs. Waters.
“Its a devastating thing,” she continued. “You’re just thrown into it and you’re trying to swim. You’re just trying to help your child and trying to make other people aware of it.”
Autism is a neurobiological brain disorder that effects a child’s ability to communicate. According to Autism Speaks, a national organization, autism is recognized in children and typically lasts throughout their life time. The disability captures one in every 166 children.
Autism is more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined, according to Autism Speaks. The disorder occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups and is four times more likely in boys than girls.
“Maybe one day we can have a cure or find out a reason,” said Mr. Waters.
Now, the Waters made an addition to the family. Last fall, Mrs. Waters gave birth to a boy who shows no signs of autism.
“We can see a lot of difference, just the behavior,” said Mrs. Waters.
Now, the family tries to use sign language to communicate. Candace has spent three years in preschool at Jefferson School in Park Ridge. Mrs. Waters said its made a big difference to their little girl who can’t wait to go.
“In the morning, she wants her shoes on and she wants out,” she said.
Periodically, Candace will say a word like “momma” and is making progress. She will start kindergarten this fall.
Robert and Sandy Waters debut their program “The Candy Store: Music, Art, Inspiration, and Information” this month on Autism One Radio. “The Candy Store” is named after the Waters’ daughter, Candace, a 5-year old cutie with brilliant red hair. The Waters wrote a song for Candace entitled “Faith, Love, and Hope” that has touched parents, organizations, and legislators worldwide. Hollywood artist Metin Bereketli has contacted the Waters about placing his artwork on the cover of the Waters’ CD to benefit autism charities, as well as playing the Waters’ music while he performs his “Healing Art” sessions, which will be filmed for a DVD. Metin Bereketli’s website is www.hollywoodpainter.com. “The Candy Store” stocks its “shelf” with music, art, inspiration, and information to inspire, educate, and help parents guide their children on the road to recovery, while having some fun along the way. It will be sweet!
For a copy of the song “Faith, Love, and Hope,” e-mail Robert and Sandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.