Autistic woman's 'acceptance' song gets huge response
A woman with severe autism has written and performed a Christmas song which has provoked a huge response from people affected by the condition.
Gemma Cooper, 22, from Maesteg, wrote Gemma's Gift For Christmas, about autism awareness, with her teacher.
"Music has helped her a lot to get through her disabilities," her mother, Julie Morgan, said.
The National Autistic Society said Ms Cooper was "incredibly talented" and had done well to overcome her nerves.
After writing the lyrics with her mother, Ms Cooper's music teacher Christopher Bond wrote the accompanying music.
They posted a video of her performing the song online and it "went through the roof", Ms Morgan said.
A post of her performance on the Autism World Awareness Day Facebook page was viewed 52,000 times and shared by hundreds.
Ms Morgan said Mr Bond had been "like a godsend" to her daughter.
Ms Cooper taught herself to play different instruments in her bedroom for years.
She now plays the cornet in Gwaun Cae Gurwen Brass Band in Cwmgors near Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, and is less isolated as a result.
Ms Cooper attends a day care centre two days a week and has even performed the song in front of an audience of 30.
The 22-year-old was born healthy and hit all of her milestones, but from the age of nine she started regressing, losing the skills she had learnt.
"She wasn't coping in school and wouldn't stay in the classes. She'd be walking the corridors and everything changed," Ms Morgan said.
After she was diagnosed with autism, "she went through a time where she just wanted to stay in bed all the time".
Ms Cooper had speech and language therapy and saw a psychologist. She has been told she will need help with speech and language for the rest of her life.
"If it wasn't for her music, I wouldn't like to think... She was in a bad place," Ms Morgan said.
Mr Bond, a musician and a brass teacher, has been teaching Ms Cooper at Tongwynlais Academy in Cardiff where she has been taking cornet lessons.
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"It soon became clear that Gemma wanted to write a Christmas song and that involved her singing. She's talented in different areas - I know that she also plays the saxophone," he said.
Initially she was not keen on singing in front of him so they had to sing the song together. But as time went on, she became more confident and he was able to just accompany her on the piano.
"There's definitely been a growth in her confidence," Mr Bond said.
"I found the experience really rewarding. Gemma absolutely loves the lessons and she works really, really hard in the lessons as well."
They have even talked about writing an Easter song. "Whether we will or not, who knows?" he said.
A National Autistic Society Cymru spokesperson said it was "wonderful to hear Gemma's story".
"Our research shows that 79% of autistic people feel socially isolated, which makes Gemma's accomplishment all the more positive and a source of encouragement to many, including autistic people with a range of interests and talents," he said.
"There's a huge amount of creativity in the autism community, from artists, to musicians, poets and actors and it's important we celebrate this."