Josiah celebrates dance victories

TEENAGER Josiah Court waltzed off with two trophies at a national dance championship - after months of dedicated practice to overcome severe physical co-ordination problems.

TEENAGER Josiah Court waltzed off with two trophies at a national dance championship - after months of dedicated practice to overcome severe physical co-ordination problems.

Josiah, 16, and his partner Sophie Denton, 15, were the youngest competitors in the Stars of the Future competition in Brentwood but judges were hugely impressed as they never put a foot wrong.

They took home the ballroom and latin silverware, beating 38 couples in the beginners' class.

For Josiah, a performing arts student at Suffolk College, it was a fantastic triumph and will be an inspiration to others as he suffers from Asperger's syndrome and dyspraxia, causing problems with movement and co-ordination in his upper body and some muscles on his left side don't work.

To train as a dancer, he has to focus on the movement of every muscle needed for every turn and step - and spend weeks commanding his body to use the muscles in the right order until it becomes automatic, something which is just natural for others.

“We believe Josiah was one of the MMR babies,” said his mum Vanda Court.

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“He was absolutely fine at 14 months and had an attention span of 45 minutes when he was playing, which the doctors thought was amazing. Within weeks of the MMR injection, this went down to 45 seconds.

“He would be up seven times a night as a little one and still doesn't sleep well now.”

Josiah became hyper-active and would fidget constantly, and after tests and assessments was diagnosed as having dyspraxia and asperger's syndrome.

“We were looking for something to help him with his co-ordination and decided to take him to a ballroom dancing class when he was 13 - he came out and immediately said, can I do it again? He really enjoyed it,” said Mrs Court.

Under the guidance of dancer teachers Sarah Till and Jenny Dix at the Ipswich School of Dancing, Josiah has gone from strength to strength.

“I love it - it's brilliant. It is hard work because my muscles do not do what other people's do naturally,” said Josiah, who lives with him mum and dad, Derek Court, minister at Trimley Free Church, in High Road, Trimley St Mary.

He would love to become a dancer as a career and starts work on a national diploma next year.

His partner Sophie lives in Caistor, Lincolnshire, and travels down to Suffolk twice a week so they can practice.

What do you think of Josiah's achievements? Do you know someone who has overcome problems to become a winner? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FACTFILE: Asperger's syndrome and dyspraxia

Dyspraxia can affect any or all areas of development - intellectual, emotional, physical, language, social and sensory - and may impair a person's normal process of learning.

Problems arise in the process of forming ideas, motor planning and execution, since people with dyspraxia have poor understanding of the messages their senses convey and difficulty relating those messages to actions.

Children with dyspraxia may be late in reaching milestones, and may not be able to run, hop or jump, for example, when their friends can, or find it hard to walk up and down stairs, and may not be able to dress easily.

Up to ten per cent of the population may show symptoms of dyspraxia, with around two pc being severely affected. Males are four times more likely to be affected than females.

Asperger's Syndrome is a disorder that falls within the autistic spectrum and is a life-long condition which affects about one in 200 people, more commonly men than women.

The condition is characterised by difficulties with social interaction, social communication and flexibility of thinking or imagination. In addition, there may be sensory, motor and organisational difficulties.

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