The Nadas New Single “Henry James” Is A Tribute To His Autistic Son


National Autism Month is coming to a close, but should be present every month of the year. We were deeply moved by this touching story courtesy of The Nadas Mike Butterworth about his son Henry James, who has a song on their latest album dedicated to him:

​”​Eight years and 5 days ago my wife and I welcomed our first (my second) child into this world.  We knew we would name him Henry so we could call him Hank inspired in name only by David Duchovny’s character Hank Moody on our favorite show at that time, Californication.  Our Hank was handsome and cute like some babies are.  Bubbly and smiley and generally happy.  As he grew we noticed two things, Hank wasn’t a good fit for our boys’ name so Henry he became, and that he was missing some of the milestones that other children his age were hitting.  While our pediatrician tried to tell us it was too early to worry, we went in search of answers to these developmental delay questions the one place that no matter what, you can find relevant and accurate information, the internet.  Not surprisingly the internet data was inconclusive and our worry grew.

As he approached his first birthday, Henry still hadn’t crawled or really even rolled over.  As a second time dad I was secretly and selfishly somewhat pleased that I could plop this happy boy down and not have to worry about what stairs he would get too close to or what he would stick in an outlet but at this point the doctors started to take action and call for testing.  Over the next 5 years everyone we would see told us “there is nothing wrong with this kid, he will get there.  Just be patient”

At age one he was tested for muscular dystrophy (negative)   At one and a half we traveled down the road to Iowa City where he was tested for genetic and neurological defects (negative)   Just short of his second birthday our Henry took his first few steps.  His mother who was filming sobbed with joy and relief.  I put up baby gates and installed outlet covers.  At age two he started O.T and P.T.  to strengthen his low tone.  By age three Henry could read at a sixth grade level but started to act out, aggression, tantrums, and defiance.  This was the last year we would go out in public to eat for some time and the same year we started taking two cars anywhere we went so dad could take Henry home if he was having a “rough time”.  The same year we started seeing a behavioral developmental specialist who gave us hope and an action plan for which we saw little result.  At age 4 we went to Mayo Clinic for a weeks worth of testing, prodding, and probing to finally get to the bottom of what was going on with our little dude.  We saw the intake specialist doctor first who was to make a plan for which of his colleagues we would see throughout the rest of that week.  After an hour-long interview with us and Henry he disappeared for an hour and came back and sent us home. “there is nothing wrong with this kid, he will get there.  Just be patient”    I was ecstatic until it sunk in on the long drive home that we still didn’t know why Henry acted the way he did.  This would be a good time to mention that Henry is equal parts handsome and charming and has always been able to get whatever he wanted by tilting his head, smiling, and flashing his huge blue eyes.  At age 5 we started seeing a child psychiatrist who immediately diagnosed henry with Autism.  At this point in our struggle there was zero surprise on our part and actually quite a bit of relief to have a label attached.  Mom got puzzle tattoos and we signed up for the autism walk and hunkered down to live life with Autism.

Since then we have been through countless medicine combinations, countless highs, countless lows, and countless pull-ups.  We continue to see his wonderful pediatrician, behavioral developmental specialist, and psychiatrist.  Since then in addition to his older sister who is like another mother and friend, Henry has two more sisters who love and protect him.  Since then he has built a village, no a town, no a city of support around himself without which we couldn’t survive.  Since then Henry has grown from chubby little no crawling Hank into run, jump, and laugh Henry James Butterworth who is smart, funny, even more handsome and charming, still reads but at a junior high level, and who is kind, loving, and caring.

Life isn’t perfect.  He still is aggressive, can’t dress himself, brush his teeth, or put on his coat.  He still wears pull-ups but now has eight year old boy messes that make whoever’s turn it is to change him wretch.  He can’t swallow pills or buckle his safety belt.  He can’t ride a bike or throw a ball.  We go out to dinner again finally but sheepishly clean up his disaster of a table place after he is done so the poor server doesn’t have to and still take two cars just in case.

I worry sometimes about the future.  What happens when he is too big for his mom to handle when he throws a tantrum and comes after her?  What happens when we are gone?  Will he be able to live on his own or at least in some way contribute to society?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that when things are bad they are very very bad.  When things are good they are very very good and we celebrate even the smallest of victories like someone who just won a new car on The Price is Right.  What I do know is I wouldn’t want Henry James any other way than exactly how he is.  What I do know is “there is nothing wrong with this kid, he will get there.  I’ll be patient”  What I do know is that he is my very best friend and an inspiration, and I’ll try my best every day to make sure that his life doesn’t end up lame.  That sounds like it could be a song……oh wait it is.  Please enjoy this song I wrote and recorded with my band The Nadas called “Henry James” and remember that April is Autism Awareness month and that countless other families living with Autism are trying their best every day.”