'When words fail, autism sings': Reid Soria overcomes the diagnosis to make his mark on local music

Jessica Coker
Left, Rick, Reid, Joanna and Jo Soria — The Soria family literally operates what they call a family production for Reid's vocal career.

At 3 years old, Reid Soria was diagnosed with "severe autism," and the outlook looked bleak at best. Doctors told his parents he would likely never even have the ability to speak.

Now, at 27-years-old, Reid is recording his first album and performing shows all over Northwest Florida and beyond — because, as his family says, "When words fail, autism sings!"

Parents Jo and Rick Soria never thought of Reid's diagnosis as anything less than positive. Like their other three children — Ryan, Jennifer and Joanna — they had extremely high expectations for Reid because they knew he was capable of anything he set his mind to.

"We kind of learned through trial-and-error," said Jo, who lives with her family in Fort Walton Beach. "We didn't want him to sit around the house all day doing nothing so we had him try out different activities, we insisted that he try new things . . . and music absolutely stuck."

She added, "We continually raised the bar for Reid every time he would accomplish a goal, so he's always working hard toward something."

Reid got his musical start at Pyramid Incorporated in Fort Walton Beach about four years ago, a center where disabled adults can practice various forms of art. His first time performing was during a musical called "Wonkaville."

How did Reid handle any anxiety he was feeling before that first show?

"I just handled it," said Reid. "I got over it."

"I'm amazingly proud of him — all the time," added Rick. "He works harder than anyone I know and he wants this more than anyone else."

Reid’s musical style spans multiple genres, but he prefers singing smooth songs like Michael Bubles “I just haven’t met you yet.” He’s also a big fan of college fight songs, with Auburn University and the Air Force Academy being his favorites.

“Performing live,” Reid said when asked what his favorite part of being an entertainer.

With seven shows coming up in April alone, it only seems natural that Reid might occasionally catch a case of stage fright — even the most proficient songbirds aren't immune. But, in that natural cool Reid style, he quickly nixes the idea that his nerves are anything more than a small butterfly or two flying around inside his belly.

"Why would I be nervous?" Reid asks. "I'm an entertainer . . . and I'm really enjoying this career so far."

Reid told The Log that he is just glad to have the ability to speak — and sing — so being nervous would be a waste.

"Newsflash," said Reid. "Autism isn't a downer, it doesn't have to be a bad thing, and I have no problem with my diagnosis."

Reid's sister, Joanna, told The Log that because they are only 15-months apart, they're very close — basically twins, according to Joanna.

"He is so fearless, you can't help but be inspired by him." said Joanna. "He pulls me out of my comfort zone."

The Soria family agrees that Reid is an extremely special, talented person who they wouldn't change if they could.

"Honestly, he's here to put us all out of our misery," said Joanna. "He saved me from a normal life and he brings us all together."

"Yeah, I'm like the glue of the family . . . I'm stuck to everything," Reid said with a big laugh.

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