Just because someone has a disability does not mean they have nothing to contribute to the world. Ten-year-old Kaylee Rogers of the Killard House School in northern Ireland is autistic and has ADHD. Despite these conditions, she also has one of the most beautiful singing voices ever heard from a child. Kaylee sang a version of Leonard Cohen’s popular song for the school’s Christmas concert. With no hesitation or stage fright, the young girl passionately sang the entire song, without sheet music, from memory. The altered lyrics were perfect for the Christmas season, giving all who listened a chance to meditate on the true meaning of this universal celebration.
Because Kaylee is a quiet child, it is surprising that she is willing to stand up on front of people and perform on a stage. Her version of the song gives you the chills with its raw emotion. Her headteacher, Colin Miller, says she is very shy but that she “just opens up” when she sings. Kaylee is one of 200 students aged three to 16 at the Killard House School.
The young student often sings at the local Christmas concert at First Presbyterian Church in Newtownards. However, she lost her voice prior to this year’s concert, leading her headteacher to play a pre-recorded video of her singing a few weeks before. Many of the congregation members were in tears after hearing the song.
The video was filmed by Billy McAuley and uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. It has received hundreds of thousands of shares. People from Japan, the United States and Australia have called the school with comments on the video.
Kaylee started her education at Killard House in year four. Her autism and ADHD make it difficult for her to grasp numerical concepts and to read, but her musical talent is outstanding. Her music teacher, Lloyd Scates, observed her abilities and encouraged her to sing solos during certain school events to help her improve her voice and her confidence. Her mother believes that her daughter may have the opportunity to sing professionally, but only if Scates is involved. She calls him Kaylee’s “safety blanket” and believes that he is the reason Kaylee has done so well. Headteacher Colin Miller says that Kaylee has gained confidence from singing in front of others. “All my kids have talents…this is hers,” he said.
The original “Hallelujah” was composed and written by Leonard Cohen and explores the feelings behind rejected love and hope after loss. The alternative lyrics sung by Kaylee were written by the Christian band Cloverton from Manhattan, Kansas.
Autism spectrum disorders and ADHD are related in several different ways. Having one condition increases the chances of having the other. Children with autism may have difficulty with paying attention and following directions. They may also struggle with reading disorders and other learning disabilities. Despite these challenges, children with these conditions often excel in certain areas. Some autistic children are phenomenal artists while others shine as musicians or engineers. Kaylee Rogers is living proof that having a disability does not mean you have nothing to give. In fact, a disability may even enhance certain areas in the life of the child that would not be there otherwise.
Kaylee told ITV that she found it “amazing” that the video received so much attention. She has difficulty reading out loud in class and struggles with her schoolwork, but her love for singing is apparent with each note she sings. In commenting on the “Hallelujah” video, she said: “I just loved doing it.”