When Marisabel Figueroa’s daughter Kaitlyn De Jesus was 3 years old, she was diagnosed with autism.
“The neurologist who saw Kaitlyn said she was going to be non-verbal for all of her life,” Figueroa told TODAY Parents. "I refused to accept that."
De Jesus, 13, would go on to speak with visual prompts, but she never managed more than two words — until Saturday.
“I’m still crying about it,” the single mom from Mulberry, Florida, revealed.
The scene unfolded on their neighbor Don Weaver’s driveway. Since 2007, Weaver has decorated his front lawn with a musical Christmas display that boasts more than 200,000 twinkling lights.
De Jesus visits the attraction every day and stays for several hours.
“Our usual routine is to go after 6 when it gets dark,” Figueroa, who works as a manager at McDonalds, explained. “Mr. Weaver puts down a special chair just for Kaitlyn and she sits there dancing and tapping her feet.”
But last week, the eighth grader was able to verbalize her joy.
“She got up from the chair and started singing,” Figueroa gushed. Then out “out of the blue” De Jesus began making observations, which is something she had never done before.
“She said, ‘Mom! Look at the blue lights. Look at the snowmen. Santa’s coming,'” Figueroa told TODAY Parents. “I started crying. I couldn’t believe it."
Weaver and other neighbors who were watching couldn’t believe it either.
“It was the first time she ever talked,” Weaver marveled to TODAY Parents.
"This woman came over to me and goes, I've never heard Kaitlyn speak," Figueroa said. "I was like, ‘Well, I’m her mom and I’ve never heard her speak unprompted like that.’"
Figueroa describes De Jesus as happy but “a bit isolated and and quiet.”
“At Mr. Weaver’s house she comes to life. She’s like this whole new entity,” Figueroa said. “If only Christmas could be around all year.”
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This story was first published in 2019.