Orlando Magic Helps Mute Boy Find His Voice

Boy's parents say Orlando Magic games have helped mute son to find his voice.

June 4, 2009— -- All it took was a little Magic for a 4-year-old boy to find his voice.

While most Orlando Magic fans come to the games to see the action, all Izzy Rodriguez wants to do is listen to his son speak. It's a sound he thought he might never hear.

Diagnosed with an anxiety disorder called selective mutism, Ryan Rodriguez had never spoken more than a word or two while his preschool classmates chatted up a storm. But that changed one night when Ryan caught a Magic game on television and started pointing.

"He sat there and kept going, 'Me, me, play, play," Rodriguez told "Good Morning America. "So I turn around and I do crazy things."

Crazy things, he said, like paying $641 for two tickets to a Magic game.

"It was very, very heavy. It was either pay the mortgage or take him to a game," Rodriguez said. "So I figure I only live once and they usually give you 30 days before they yell at you."

It was a worthwhile sacrifice for Rodriguez and his wife, Karen Rodriguez. For years, they've watched other children play and make noises.

"He wouldn't do that," Rodriguez said of his son. "He would sit there and just stare."

Ryan, his parents said, wouldn't talk to anyone -- not them, not to his preschool teachers.

"It just, it broke my heart because, you know, I'd see the other kids just interacting and he just wouldn't," Karen Rodriguez said.

After Ryan was diagnosed, the Rodriguezes began to spend thousands of dollars from Izzy Rodriguez's auto mechanic's salary on speech therapy. But nothing worked until Ryan saw the Magic game on TV at the end of April.

Despite the financial burden, Rodriguez said he was desperate to find something that his son could connect with.

"When he's yours," he said, "you do whatever it takes."

Orlando Magic Helps Mute Boy Talk

So off the father and son went to the April 28 game. Rodriguez's plan seemed to work right away.

"When we get there, he says, 'Me, play basketball, here?'" Rodriguez said. "So I look down and dropped to my knees and said 'What did you say?' He said, 'Me play basketball here?' I said, Yeah."

Ryan, his father said, kept talking through the entire game.

"I'm thinking, OK, I'm dreaming. Or something happened, or maybe this is what he needed. [He] talked to me all the way home," Rodriguez said. "I talked to Karen on the cell phone crying all the way home."

The next day, Rodriguez said, he wrote an e-mail to Magic team officials, telling them in part, "I just can't believe what an impact you all had on my son. I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the most priceless moment in my life, hearing Ryan talk."

Joel Glass, Magic's vice president of communications, said the e-mail began circulating through the office.

"And it hits my BlackBerry, and there was a note on top that said, 'You have to read this,'" Glass said. "The first thing that came to mind is we could replicate what happened."

So Magic has given the family tickets throughout the playoffs. And series after series, Ryan has opened up in ways his parents never imagined.

"It's priceless," Rodriguez said, crying. "You can't ask for more. And those guys who play, the whole organization, and I know a lot of teams ... do a lot of stuff for children, but being that close to a miracle is priceless. "

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