Why I’m Thanking Taylor Swift as a Mom of Sons With Special Needs


Dear Taylor Swift,

It has been nearly two decades since I took pen in hand (figuratively) to write to a celebrity. Then, it was an up-and-coming boy band from Florida that was performing at the Mark of the Quad Cities. I, the generous manager of a men’s clothing store, wrote the five boys to let them know I understood how hard it was to go shopping now that they were famous. I kindly offered to come into work before or after the mall opened to allow them to shop without being swarmed by fans. They never showed. I expect similar results here.

So why am I, an almost 40-year-old adult, behaving the way an 8-year-old girl might? Because I need to say thank you. I’m not going to thank you for the things I’m sure other people thank you for. I do constantly see online how great you are at recognizing your fans, like this and this or even this.

I don’t have a daughter, so I’m not going to thank you for being a seemingly good role model. Let’s be honest, I’ve got serious #squadgoals because of you. That’s right, isn’t it? I’m almost 40, so I’m not hip to the lingo. None of these are the reasons I am writing to thank you.

Several years ago, I had two children who had difficulty with speech. One was delayed and unable to engage in conversations, and the other was eventually diagnosed as nonverbal and with autism. It was, and can still be, emotionally overwhelming at times. And yes, your music can be the perfect pop antidote, but it’s still not the reason I want to thank you.

My oldest, Brady, entered preschool unable to form sentences. He had speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. We saw little improvement for many months. The therapists talked about taking him to be tested for autism. And then “Love Story” began to flood the airwaves, constantly played on the radio and on VH1. And it became Brady’s favorite song, being requested on a constant loop most days.

And then, he started singing it. He grabbed the keyboard he had gotten for Christmas and he sang along — not just words, but sentences. He knew all the words to the song, words I didn’t even know, and he sang them. Our jaws dropped.

Each song released from that album elicited the same results. Eventually, the keyboard was replaced by a plastic guitar, and we watched VH1 constantly in hopes of catching one of your videos in order to DVR it, which we were then requested to watch over and over.

Soon after, speech blossomed and kept blossoming. Now, six years later, my husband and I are generally exhausted at the end of the day from the constant chatter that fills our household.

My second son, now 8, has autism and doesn’t speak, so I don’t have stories of how your music inspired him to sing along… yet. However, I can thank you for what your music has done for him as well. Autism brings its own sensory challenges, and in particular, cutting his hair can be extremely difficult. We’ve cut his hair at home for the last several years, and every month, it’s a challenge. The only beacon of hope comes when we turn on YouTube and allow him to watch music videos during the cut. He gets distracted, and for a moment, it’s not so hard. Your music in particular draws his attention away from our task and quiets him, if only for a few minutes.

bobblehead of nsync member next to framed photo of two boys
A photograph of Kelly’s two sons.

So there you go, Taylor Swift. I am thankful for you and your music because of what it has done for my children. And if by some very small chance, you actually read this, I hope you keep providing the perfect soundtrack for my family — and for our Friday night dance parties, even if the 10-year-old won’t admit to participating in them.

P.S. That group that I wrote to in the 1990s? It was *NSYNC. I understand you, too, are a fan.

A version of this story first appeared on Quad City Moms Blog.

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