An 11-year-old autistic boy from Derbyshire, who found his voice thanks to popstar Olly Murs, has had the chance to meet his hero.
William Smedley was born with autism, epilepsy and severe learning difficulties and had over 60 seizures a day.
For years his mum Jemma, 38, and dad Richard, 41 were told their son would never be able to speak or even walk.
But three years ago, on a long road trip to Yorkshire, William, of Ilkeston, stunned his family by singing along to Olly Murs’ first album.
William’s first ever words were “bacon and eggs” - a lyric from the 32-year-old’s song ‘Busy’.
Over the following months Olly Murs’ songs became a catalyst for William - who had previously been unable to ask for water - finding the confidence to speak.
And now the schoolboy, who has a huge collection of the Essex boy’s albums by his bed, has finally had the chance to meet his hero.
Heartwarming pictures show Olly warmly embracing William outside Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena last week.
Jemma said: “William had really struggled to communicate before discovering Olly.
“We’d had all sorts of different speech therapy, but the problem was that William never really had an interest in anything. There wasn’t anything for him to talk about.
“But one day that all changed.
“We were driving to my mum and dad’s and he just came out with ‘bacon and eggs’ from the Olly Murs’ song Busy.
“Richard and I just looked at each other.
“William’s short-term memory always used to be horrific, so the fact that he’d remembered the words was just incredible.
“We would get in the car and he would shout ‘bacon and eggs’ every time and we knew that meant he wanted to listen to Olly Murs.
“He then started to mouth the words and then they started to come out.
“In one of Olly’s songs it says ‘you’ve got the lock, I’ve got the key’ and it felt like we had found William’s key and unlocked the little boy in there.
“I think that it’s the songs. They are happy and upbeat and that is just like William. He’s so upbeat and happy.
“We have seen a complete change in him since Olly Murs, especially in his memory.
“He took the words out of the song and remembered them.
“I had a child who struggled to tell me he needed a drink, but he could sing a whole Olly Murs song.”
The former X Factor star’s music has also helped William overcome other difficulties in his life and he can now walk and even dance.
Mum-of-three Jemma, a community support worker, added: “He started watching the music videos and learning the dancing.
“He even won his school’s talent competition last year.
“Dancing along to his song’s has certainly improved William’s movement and confidence. And even the way he says things now, it’s a lot more clear.
“He used to know that people couldn’t understand him, and looked over at me wanting me to translate.
“For years people would ask what he was saying, but now he has got the confidence.
“He’s found that little thing he never had.”
Last week, William’s dream came true as he met his hero outside the Motorpoint Arena where Olly had been performing on his UK tour.
William, who studies at special needs Brackenfield School in Long Eaton, was even given the day off to meet the pop star.
Jemma said: “We had tried to meet Olly in the Motorpoint Arena back in 2015, but unfortunately we got caught in traffic and were 20 minutes late.
“William was absolutely devastated. For autistic children it’s black and white, and he was just absolutely gutted that he couldn’t meet his hero.
“But this time I was determined that we’d get to meet him - we even got there at 9am and waited five hours for him.
“We waited and waited for Olly, and when he did eventually arrive he went straight into the arena and I thought ‘oh god, we’ve missed him again’.
“But moments later he came out, and I screamed at the top of my lungs for him to come over.
“I did not know how William was going to react but he sat with his fingers crossed hoping that we would see him.
“I said to Olly ‘thank you for being an inspiration and being the reason that William can speak’.
“I was crying, Jenny was crying, the people around us were too.
“Olly was pretty stunned. He just gave me a big hug and a kiss.
“I don’t think I have ever seen William so happy. His face was absolute picture - I don’t think he could believe it.
“In one and a half minutes I felt like I made his dreams come true.
“I started to cry, my friend started to cry. He really felt like he fitted in with everyone.
“There’s not many people that can say Olly Murs taught their child to speak – but we can.”