Father produces song for son Austin

Father produces song for son Austin
November 02
08:00 2017

Busta’s Person of the Week

By Busta Brown
The Chronicle

“Around age 3, my son just stopped communicating verbally. He was doing just fine. He was speaking all the things a normal a 3-year-old is suppose to say, like ‘Daddy,’ ‘Mommy,’ ‘My sippy cup,’ ‘Pick me up,’ all of those things. And he was developing absolutely fine, and then all of sudden, the language absolutely stopped.”

Tommy Hicks is speaking of his son Austin.

“The doctor said he might be experiencing a developmental delay, which is why he’s not talking. The doctor said it’s not uncommon for the youngest child to let their older siblings talk for them, but the language just didn’t come back.”

Hicks and his wife of 29 years, Monique, had noticed something else.

“Austin wouldn’t maintain eye contact with us, he seemed to be in his own world.”

Three years later, at age 6, Austin Hicks was diagnosed with autism.

“We looked at it as Austin being unique, and different, and that he doesn’t like this or he doesn’t like that, not knowing that the things he was displaying were common traits of Autism.”

I asked Hicks about some of the challenges with raising a child with Autism.

“Austin is having to learn how to communicate all over again. For six months, he made noises to communicate.” During those six months Tommy Hicks said Austin would watch cartoons for hours. “Austin could quote a series of lines for two to three minutes long from a cartoon, and we were impressed. We thought others would feel the same, but it turned out that people would look at him as the weird kid, because the placement of those things wasn’t appropriate in a lot of cases.”

But The Hickses weren’t offended. “We were happy about his forward motion, his progress, that he was saying something. We began to experience his echolalia [repetition of speech by a child learning to talk] getting to incredible levels. He could quote the beginning of ‘The Lion King’ when he about 6 or 7.”

Austin is now 20, and is doing very well. He shares his daily experiences with his father. Tommy said he was led by the Holy Spirit to write a song about what Austin wanted people to know about autism. It’s a beautiful song called “Acceptance”, which he recorded with Juan Winans, the nephew of gospel singers BeBe & CeCe Winans. “The opportunity to record with a member of the Winans family was a miracle within itself.” God opened great doors for this song in 2014, when professional golfer Ernie Els heard the song and asked Tommy to perform it in Las Vegas at his major event (The Grand Finale: Els 4 Autism) for the cause of autism awareness and support. Ernie Els also has a son with autism.

Tommy believes this is just the beginning. “This song has a purpose beyond just performing it at events. ‘Acceptance’ speaks to us all of the importance of taking a little time out to support or encourage someone with autism or special needs. It was part of Jesus’ ministry, and it should be a part of our lifestyle as His children.”

After my interview with Tommy Hicks, this handsome young man with a smile that would warm up the North Pole, and one of the most humble spirits I’ve ever experienced, walks into the living room, extends his hand to me, and introduced himself to me.

“Hi, my name is Austin.” He asked if he could show me some of his art, and I was truly honored.

Go to the channel Winstonsalem Chronicle to see Austin’s drawings and more of my interview with him and his father, Tommy Hicks. Contact info: 336-391-0921

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