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'Old Town Road' sparked 'incredible' breakthrough for boy with non-verbal autism

He started singing, and his mother started sobbing with joy
/ Source: TODAY

Sheletta Brundidge’s 4-year-old son Daniel has non-verbal autism. That means when the little boy fractured his foot, he kept the pain to himself. “Daniel couldn’t tell us he was hurt,” the Minnesota-based mom told TODAY Parents. “One day, he just refused to walk, so we took him to the doctor for an X-ray."

I was crying so hard that tears were dropping on his head. I was like, ‘This is the beginning. This is the light!’

But recently, Daniel found his voice. Sheletta was in the kitchen washing dishes on June 3, when suddenly, Daniel began humming Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road." Sheletta stood there in shock. Though Daniel’s siblings Andrew, 12, Brandon, 6, and Cameron, 5, are Lil Nas X superfans, Daniel never joined in on their sing-a-longs. In fact, most of the time, he doesn't even seem to notice his brothers and sisters are in the room.

“At first I thought I was hallucinating,” Sheletta told TODAY Parents. “When I realized it was really happening, I almost started screaming, but loud noises are upsetting to Daniel, so I stayed very calm.” Sheletta took out her phone and captured a few seconds on video, before turning her focus back to the miracle that was happening in front of her.

"Daniel went from humming to actually singing the lyrics," Sheletta told TODAY Parents. “I was crying so hard that tears were dropping on his head. I was like, ‘This is the beginning. This is the light!’ It took him 6 months to learn the letter 'A' using flash cards, but he taught himself a song all by himself."

Sheletta, who co-hosts the Two Haute Mamas podcast, took to Twitter on June 4 to share the incredible footage — where it quickly went viral with more than 1.32 million views. Even Lil Nas X weighed in, writing, “What a king.”

Sheletta and her husband, Shawn, immediately called a meeting with their son’s therapists. “We were like, ‘We’re gonna be using music from now on to teach Daniel, and not that ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ stuff," Sheletta told TODAY Parents. Daniel's team agreed and they are now using "Old Town Road" as positive reinforcement.

Fans of Daniel Brundidge can expect more viral videos — this time with head bobs and dance moves.

“Daniel is becoming more confident. His voice has gotten louder and he's moving his body when he sings," Sheletta told TODAY Parents. “It’s absolutely incredible. We now know that music is how he communicates and how he learns. We've finally got a clear path.”

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