Entering the New Year as Public Enemy #1
Honest Holiday Thoughts From an Autism Mom

Age of Autism Award Child of the Year: Sam Debold

Hope-1 On this New Year's Day, we invite you to take a look at autism recovery. Sam Debold performed for us last May at Autism One. Sam, you're our "Child of the Year." Thanks for the beautiful music. Below is the post we ran about Sam's performance after the conference, including Vicky Debold's explanation of her son's experience. Happy New Year, everyone.

Managing Editor's Note: On Saturday night at the Autism One dinner, young Sam Debold turned on the charm (and every tear duct in the room) with his musical performance. Here is Dr. Andrew Wakefield's introduction of Sam. 

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have just a very, very small role tonight and that is to introduce someone that I first met some years ago in Detroit. He’s a Red Wings fan.  And a when I met Sam Debold through my great friend Vicky Debold, his mother, Sam was profoundly autistic.  And back then when I knew very little about this disease, I wondered quite what the prospects for Sam were.  And I’ve been following his progress over the years and Sam has been doing extremely well.

And then I received the other day a YouTube video of Sam which his mother instructed me to watch of Sam playing Hotel California - he’d only just heard it, I believe, for the first time that day and it was one of the most extraordinary things I’d ever seen.  And so it is a great great privilege for me and without any further adieu for me to introduce Sam Debold.

I should just say that Sam is dressed in a way that makes me look under-dressed.  I forgive him for that.  Sam, over to you man."


How Long Must We Sing This Song?
Vicky Debold, PhD, RN

In 1983, the band U2 released an album titled War which includes Sunday Bloody Sunday, a song widely considered to be one of the most powerful political protest songs of all times.  For anyone who doesn’t know the song’s history, it captures the anguish of an observer who witnessed Northern Irish civil rights protesters being fired upon by the British army (lyrics below). 

For those of us within the vaccine-injured communities who are fighting on behalf of our children for the basic human right to make voluntary, informed vaccination decisions that are based on sound science rather than ideology, it is a battle.  And it is personal.  Like the victims of the civil war described in Sunday Bloody Sunday, many lives have been lost, our families torn apart, and everyday there’s unbelievable news where indeed, “fact” is fiction and TV becomes reality. 

For anyone fortunate enough to be able to attend this weekend’s outstanding Autism One conference and Saturday night’s dinner, they heard my 11 year-old son, Sam, sing Sunday Bloody Sunday. 

Sam’s story is a common one these days.  He was a healthy, happy, normally developing baby until 15 months-of-age when he experienced a significant physical and social regression after receiving seven vaccines during his well-baby visit.  The following day, he was unable to stand up in his crib, seemed “dazed”, was ataxic and lost interest in walking which lasted for two months, developed chronic diarrhea and progressively lost his ability to speak and all interest in socializing with his family. 

In hindsight, I think he suffered from vaccine-induced ADEM (HERE) but it wasn’t diagnosed or treated.  In 2000, at 3 years-of-age Sam was profoundly autistic, non-verbal and mostly disconnected from the world and his developmental pediatrician told me that he would never be able to go to school and would probably be institutionalized.  Even so, he consistently would come running any time he heard the Jeopardy theme song.  As a result, we started music therapy and that’s how he learned to play piano.  If you’re interested, here's Dr. Wakefield's intro and Sam's first two songs (Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter and Hotel California):


And here's Sam's closing, song, "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin.


Although I’m very proud of Sam’s courage and what he has achieved, I’m even prouder of the autism community and more broadly, the vaccine-injured communities.  Without the support, hard work and dedication of these communities, I doubt Sam would have delivered the amazing performance that he did.  I happen to think that there’s something rather poignant and ironic about an autistic child soulfully wailing, “I can’t close my eyes and make it go away.  How long must we sing this song? How long?” 

In contrast to the song’s lyrics, the vaccine-injured community is heeding the battle call.  And it’s not just the autism community.  As a longtime volunteer for the National Vaccine Information Center (HERE) which has been fighting for vaccine risk awareness and informed consent for nearly three decades and answered thousands of calls from grief-stricken parents the world over including those of previously healthy teenaged girls who are devastated by Gardasil-induced injuries and death, I know that there are many more lining up to for fight for their rights. 

And to all who either deny the existence of “broken bodies strewn across the dead end streets” or claim it is only a coincidence that individuals can be seriously harmed by vaccines --- we know that this is not true.  These are people whom we love and their lives count. 

If this issue is something you care about and would like to hear Sam sing Sunday Bloody Sunday, please come to Washington, DC on October 2–4, 2009 for the upcoming NVIC 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination (HERE)

Sunday Bloody Sunday
U2, 1983

I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away
How long...
How long must we sing this song?
How long? How long...
(Read the full lyrics HERE.)

Dr. Debold has worked in the health care field for over 25 years and currently works as a consultant performing health services research and policy analysis related to patient safety. She has worked as a health policy analyst for the U.S. Congress, Physician Payment Review Commission, Michigan Health and Safety Coalition, and the Michigan State Commission on Patient Safety. Additionally, she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan and an Associate Professor and Director of the Health Systems Management Program at the University of Detroit Mercy. Her doctoral degree is from the University of Michigan - School of Public Health (Health Services Organization and Policy) and School of Nursing (Health Systems Administration). She was a Regent's Fellow and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in health systems research. She serves as an Executive Board member for The Coalition for SafeMinds.



Sandra Bryan

Sam the Man! So much talent and spirit in one little heart.

Maria M.

Way to go Sam!!!! I had the pleasure to hear you at Autism One last year. Bravo!!!

Angela Warner

Sam, YOU ROCK!!! I had the priviledge of witnessing your ability to Rock The House last May at Autism One and I was blown away and in tears at the same time. I do hope you will be performing again this coming May... Your music would be a hard show to beat! (Vicky take note :D)

Congratulations to you, young man, and congratulations to your family. The hard work you've all done together has led to this moment in time. I have no doubt there will be more of these to come!

Kathi Williams

Congratulations Sam. A well deserved honor. Thank you for the wonderful performance at the National Vaccine Information Center conference in October. YOU ROCK!!!

Kathi Williams


Sam, as always, you rock. Best wishes from Music City! Renee and Jack-Jack.

Renee S.

Sam, we are so proud of you!!!! You continue to amaze us with your musical talents and your loving spirit. Can't wait to hear you play your newest instruments for us. We love you and miss you.
Aunt Renee, Uncle Joe, Joey & Steven

Joe Debold

Congratulations Sam! You truly are an amazingly gifted young man. Can't wait to hear you play the sax in person. You're turning into a one-man-band. I couldn't be prouder of all that you have already accomplished.


Uncle Joe

Carmel Wakefield

I want to add my warmest congratulations to Sam. He really deserves the award of Autism Child of the Year. It has been my privilege to call Sam and his parents my friends. They have been tireless in their support of my husband's work. Sam was the guest of honor at our recent fundraising event here in Austin - Teens4Autism - and he literally "blew us all away". I know that this is just the beginning of great things for Sam and I will look forward to watching his journey.
Bella sends him a big puppy hug too!
With lots of love and admiration.
Carmel Wakefield

Chad, Em, and Mallory

Thank you Sam for the piano music. It is so beautiful.
Sam, we love to hear you play and always look forward to our visits/phonecalls.
-Chad & Emily

Lori McIlwain

An incredible little guy that had us all in tears. Amazing voice and spirit. Way to go, Sam! What an inspiration.

Laura Wendt

Sam: you are an amazing child and I am proud to be your aunt. congratulations on this award. Your friends and family know the hard work and discipline it has taken bring out the beautiful boy you are today. We should acknowledge the strengh and determination of your Mom and Dad in their daily stuggle to fight Autism. Congratulation to all of you.
Aunt Laura


A few of us totally lost it when we heard Sam perform at NAA-- he conveyed something really hard to describe but it's like being handed a package of revelations and experience. You walk away knowing something of what he knows.

When a child is brought back using methods targeting vaccine damage, the degree to which it's an amazing, hopeful thing to witness is the degree to which the awfulness of what has been done to so many children hits home. Even though I'm not completely new to these realizations, I was a basket case for a week after that, not just knowing but feeling every bit of the evil and corruption that unleashed the epidemic on the world.

A realization like that *should* be shattering. It lets us know what so many people are avoiding when they try to tune out the warnings and cling to official reassurances: they're holding onto the world as they thought it was. That world is gone. Kids like Sam are trying to create a new one and I put my stock in him and other kids with this kind of first hand experience because the uninitiated could drop the ball again when they grow up: Sam never will.

just a Mother

A beautiful example what love,support and family can do to give Sam a music therapy
that shows his strength and ability to be a
wonderful musician and a real fighter. Keep
playing Sam, I wish you much success.Thank
you for your family to share these lovely
music with us.

Cherry Sperlin Misra

To Sam, Thankyou for playing beautiful music which lights up our lives.

Raymond Debold

I am Sam's Grandfather and Sam is a great joy to us. He has come a long way since being told there is nothing to be done to fight his Autism.We watched him fight back and he won. On our last family cruise, Sam was given permission to play the piano after the lounges closed. As he played, the other passengers gathtered around and asked if Sam was part of the entertainment. I was so proud and so was Dave.
I sell Entertainment books at our Knights of Columbus bingo and donate the profit to Autism. I inform the patrons about Sam's progress and they are truely impressed. Sam is truely a fighter and loves all of his Family dearly.Sam we love you so.


this is so touching, I have an 1o year old nephew who has Autism. He was alson a healthy boy earlier on in life. this reminds me of him . it is a toching story

Theresa Cedillo

Congratulations Sam!! Thank you Vicky and Dave for your incredible work for our children.


Vicki, I met Sam by the pool at NAA. He played his flute for us and told us all about the numerous OTHER instruments he plays!! He then played that night at NAA dinner. AMAZING!
Thank you for showing us the gift of hope, Sam. I sincerely cannot tell you how you touch the lives of so many people with your music! Keep playing !! We will all be here to listen to the miracle in you.


When this was first posted the sound card on our computer was broken and I couldn't hear it. I'm so glad to have a chance to hear it now. Wonderful performance!!!


Sam, I loved listening to you perform, you are good!!

Marcy Henschel

I too had the privilege of watching Sam preform this at Autism One last year live. I will never forget it! Sam...I dream one day one of my son's (fraternal twin's both affected by autism) will be you! Thank you to the Debold family for sharing your joy...Sam thank you for giving me the boost I need to forge forward to help my son's and many others heal! I can't wait to see you at this year's A1!


Sam Debold is the bomb! And, his mother, Vicky, is an incredible, inspirational advocate and mother. Way to go...you couldn't have pick a more worthy Child of the Year!! Congrats, Sam!!! :)

Lisa @TACA

I had the wonderful opportunity to watch this show live last year and meet Sam. What a great kid. He has lovely (amazing) parents too!

He is a wonderful testiment of hard work by child and parents for recovery. Congrats team Debold!


Sam is so amazingly talented, and so kind to share his entertainment abilities with the rest of the world. This guy is going places. Congratulations, Mom & Dad!

Teresa Conrick

It was absolutely magical to see and hear Sam play and especially, "Bloody Sunday" which has been symbolic in this autism epidemic.

Congratulations to Sam and his brilliant mother!

Vicky Debold

Wow! We're stunned and humbled. Thank you!!

Sam has had a great year musically and we are trying to figure out how to scrape up some money to establish a music therapy scholarship for autistic children. When he was non-verbal and sooooo irritable music seemed to be what "re-directed" him better than anything.

He had a lot of fun playing at several conferences and fundraisers in 2009 - Autism One, NVIC, NAA and Teens4Autism. But the highlight for him was getting to meet Don Henley from the Eagles http://www.autismone.org/content/piano-virtuoso-sam-debold-don-henley-eagles and now his favorite song is "Heart of the Matter". It still chokes me up to hear him sing his little heart out about forgiveness. He's working on that song for this year's Autism One conference banquet (bring a hankie).

As for news, he got his most desperately wanted saxophone for Christmas so now he's playing piano, clarinet, flute, trumpet and saxophone.

We're very honored that he would be selected as AoA's "Child of the Year". He's the absolute love of our lives in the same way that I know we all love and cherish each of our very special and wonderful children.

Thank you for this special recognition and honor. We are deeply in debt to the autism community and are grateful to AoA for the daily inspiration that helps us both to keep fighting for what's right.

Happy New Year!


Vicky, Dave and Sam Debold

Cathy Jameson

Wipe those tears away.....

What a powerful performance by Sam.

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