Syndrome Makes Boy Cry When He Hears Music

PHOTO: Louis Mushrow cries when he hears music due to Smith-Magenis syndrome. PlayCourtesy of the Mushrow Family
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Every time Louis Mushrow, 9, hears certain songs, he beings to cry. But his tears aren't related to hearing sad songs, instead his emotional response is a symptom of Smith-Magenis syndrome.

His mother Lisa Mushrow, of Flintshire in the United Kingdom, first noticed the unexpected reaction when Louis burst into tears during the Welsh national anthem.

"Certain music always makes him cry," said Mushrow. "Especially classical music or pop songs about love. People sometimes think he's crying because he's upset. We found out it's because certain music releases all these emotions in his brain."

Smith-Magenis syndrome is a developmental disorder that can result in mild to moderate intellectual disability, delayed speech or language skills and behavioral problems. People with the syndrome can act out with temper tantrums and outbursts, even though their personalities are often warm and engaging.

According to the National Institute of Health the syndrome is caused by a chromosomal abnormality and affects an estimated one in 25,000 people worldwide.

Researchers believe the syndrome is underreported and as many as one in 15,000 people worldwide could be suffering from the disease.

The Mushrows noticed Louis' symptoms as soon as he was born. As a newborn he refused to feed on his own, which initially his doctors thought was related to being born six weeks premature. However, Lisa Mushrow was concerned there was another underlying cause.

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"As a mum I just knew something wasn't right," says Lisa. "We decided to have genetic testing done. The results came back saying he had Smith-Magenis Syndrome. We walked away with a sickening feeling. It was the worst day of our lives."

In addition to crying when he hears music, Louis has difficulty eating food as a result of the syndrome. Until he was 3 years old, Louis often choked when he tried to eat. As a result, he is often distressed at mealtimes and the family has had to stop going to restaurants together.

"Once he started throwing plates and glasses in a café. It continued for half an hour until we got back to the car, when he stripped off all his clothes," said Mushrow. "We were getting nasty comments from other people, as we often do when he has outbursts."

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After facing numerous comments from other people about Louis' temper tantrums, the Mushrow's decided to act. Since Louis is not visibly disabled, the family has been working to raise awareness and educating the public about his condition so that people will not judge Louis for acting out.

On Friday the family participated in a country-wide fundraiser for the United Kingdom based Jeans for Genes charity that raises money for children with genetic disorders.

The family also invited Louis' teachers to a conference on Smith-Magenis syndrome. As a result, Louis' school schedule was changed to be more accommodating to his condition. Since the syndrome can make it difficult for Louis to sleep at night, he is given an hour to take a nap at school.

There is no cure for Louis' condition, but the Mushrow's hope with more research and continued education Louis will be able to finish school.

"I hope that he'll go on to college one day," said Lisa Mushrow. "I just want him to be safe and happy."