Imagine the shock! As a parent you are worried and concerned. Your 2-½ year old child is not “normal.” You seek out specialists. The diagnoses are all the same. “Severe Autism” the parents are told. The doctors doubt if the child will ever speak. “Institutionalize him.”

Instead, parents Rick and Jo Soria of Fort Walton Beach ignored the doctors. They took their son Reid home and raised him like the rest of his siblings. Rick and Jo believed Reid was born with a gift, “just like every child.” They simply had to discover what his gift was.

I first saw Reid perform in a production by the Pyramid Players, a Fort Walton Beach theatre troupe of performers with disabilities. The house was packed. Proud parents, supporters and interested friends created a buzz in the theatre. Urged to attend the performance by my wife, I prepared myself for an evening of not- so-great theatre. I was pleasantly surprised! The production was refreshing with performers working through whatever physical disability they had to flourish creatively in the imaginary world of theatre. The performers gave and the audience received. I smiled a lot that night.

I’d heard of Reid from my wife and later met him through his parents. Urged by his parents to read my film and television credits, he was enamored with me. Reading and knowing his story, I was equally impressed with him. We formed a mutual admiration society. Through the chain of my wife and his parents, I sent Reid the proverbial actor’s good luck charm that performers and supporters give each other before any show, “Break-a-Leg.” He did.

Reid Soria soared that night and every time I have seen him since. He is a serious entertainer who works hard to please his audience. From his beginnings as an actor, and now as a singer/entertainer Reid and his team, parents Rick and Jo, sister JoAnna, his vocal coach and fan club, have embarked on a journey of entertainment and creative discovery.

His first CD is Imagine The Possibilities. He’s performed live from Pensacola to Panama City, and as far away as central Florida and Birmingham, AL. He prefers singing smooth songs, but can also rouse a crowd with his version of the Star Spangled Banner, which he sang for the Pensacola Wahoos and The Birmingham Barons Professional Baseball teams. He is on Facebook, You Tube and his CD sells on Amazon.

Rick, a retired educator, says, “I’m amazingly proud of him. He works harder than anybody I know.”

Reid, in a message for others facing disabilities says, “Autism isn’t a downer. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing and I have no problem with my diagnosis.”

Reid and his team have crafted a theme that chronicles his journey, “When words fail, Autism Sings.”

*April is National Autism month.

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