Musical maven Jodi DiPiazza and Katy Perry took to the stage at Beacon Theatre in New York City last year to perform “Firework” and raise money for kids with autism.
“We’ve told you why people with autism shouldn’t be written off — why they deserve like everyone the chance to reach their potential. That’s why we’re here tonight. That’s why we’re doing this. So, let’s take a look at what happens when someone actually gets that chance,” said Comedy Central’s “Night of Too Many Starts” host Jon Stewart before the video of Jodi’s story played for all in the audience to see.
Jodi, who was diagnosed with autism shortly before her second birthday, and the YouTube video of the performance with Katy Perry captured the hearts of those worldwide, garnering more than 8 million views.
In the video, Jodi’s parents speak of the transformation their daughter underwent thanks to the specialized care and attention she received beginning when she was 3-years-old.
“What they told us was, “We don’t know what causes autism.” You know, “There’s no cure for it; it’s a lifelong disability” and “Dont’ expect too much,” said Jodi’s dad, Tom DiPiazza, of his daughter’s initial prognosis.
Mr. and Mrs. DiPiazza were crushed.
“All these dreams we had for her — I had for her — they vanished,” said Jodi’s mom, Michelle DiPiazza.
But, a combination of intensive school and after-school therapy, tough love amid the many tantrums and — especially important — discovering at an early age Jodi’s passion for music, all contributed to the way Jodi has blossomed and defied her early naysayers.
“The time that she started with us, she really was barely able to form a complete sentence, couldn’t really speak; Jodi would engage in pretty severe tantrums when you disrupted any of her routine, if things didn’t go her way. She would become aggressive and she might tip over chairs, tip over tables, cry, scream,” said Bridget Taylor, executive director of Alpine Learning Group.
Things began to change, however, when Jodi began to indulge in the arts.
“Anything she would hear on TV or on the radio station, she would just walk over to her keyboard and start playing,” Mrs. DiPiazza said. “She loves music and I think through music and through songs she’s making herself known,” she said.
“She puts everything into it. It’s been difficult — hard — but it’s amazing how far she’s come.”
“We were afraid she would never speak, never dreaming that she would sing or even be able to understand and, as the education continues, I’ve taken off the idea that there’s some limit on her because she continually proves that that’s not true,” Mr. DiPiazza said.