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Britain's Got Talent 2011--Autistic Boy wows the crowd with his dancing

nysmilenysmile Registered User Posts: 5,850 Senior Member
edited May 2011 in Parent Cafe
Hi everyone,

For a couple of years, I've been watching Britains Got Talent via youtube clips posted on Saturday and Sunday. I saw this one tonight and I thought it might be of interest to some of the parents on CC. Listen to how this young man describes dance as making him more "normal". Read his story (it's fascinating) and listen to him speak about how dance has transformed his life (in the video).

To see his audition to Britain's Got Talent, just search his name (James Hobley-Britains Got Talent) on YouTube.
Post edited by nysmile on

Replies to: Britain's Got Talent 2011--Autistic Boy wows the crowd with his dancing

  • MommaJMommaJ Registered User Posts: 5,647 Senior Member
    I did watch his audition. I can't comment on his dancing, because I don't know enough to judge who is or isn't an extraordinary dancer at age 11, but I was surprised at the use of the term "autistic" to describe him. The term seems to be thrown around so loosely these days. He was articulate, made eye contact, conversed--Aspergers perhaps, but autism? Also, I noted that he said he was "I'm home schooled because I had autism." Autism doesn't go away. Color me a cynic (and maybe there's lots more to be learned in the article), but I suspect either the mother or the producers or both are inflating the facts here. A sob story works every time on these shows.
  • nysmilenysmile Registered User Posts: 5,850 Senior Member
    Go to "you tube" and in the search box, type:

    James Hobley: a success story

    This will give you a bit more background about this boy.

    To view his Britains Got Talent audition, go to "you tube" and in the search box type:

    Britains Got Talent--James Hobley
  • Emaheevul07Emaheevul07 Registered User Posts: 5,966 Senior Member
    He was articulate, made eye contact, conversed--Aspergers perhaps, but autism?

    You are stereotyping, and it is offensive. Many, many people with HFA, and even LFA, are articulate, make eye contact, and converse-- myself included. You would never know I am autistic if you met me in person unless you were trained to see it. This is one of those subjects where, as awareness as raised, people start to think they know what they are talking about and they pass these kinds of judgments even though they do not-- and it is not appreciated.
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 16,414 Senior Member
    +1 to what Emaheevul07 says. No one should be doing any diagnoses after watching a short YouTube video, and non-experts shouldn't be diagnosing in any case. Be happy for this kid and his family.
  • robyrm2robyrm2 Registered User Posts: 350 Member
    Sorry, but by definition people with low functioning autism... are low functioning. And, since autism is a diagnosis related to social communication and behavior, they do not converse in any meaningful way. They are not articulate. If they did, they would be considered 'high functioning'.

    And, I am trained in this area and have extensive expertise in the diagnosis and management of ASD.

    For what it is worth, this seems to be the season for ASD-Diagnosed Reality contestants. Didn't James on American Idol say that he too has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome?
  • MommaJMommaJ Registered User Posts: 5,647 Senior Member
    I have a child with non-verbal learning disability, which some consider to be on the far HF end of the autism spectrum (and some don't--this is a field in great flux). She sings. I suppose I could put her on TV and claim she is autistic as part of a sob story, but it would be entirely deceptive.

    The producers of Britain's Got Talent know that James Hobley will get them ratings when the magic word "autism" is used, because the average Joe will conjure up a deeply dysfunctional child who has magically over come his disabilities though dance. It's an enticing story, but I'm sure the facts are quite different and far more complex. Exactly what is his diagnosis? How seriously was/is he disabled? To what extent was the improvement in his functioning attributable to therapies beyond dance or to simple maturation? So let's agree that James Hobley appears to be a very high functioning child on the autism spectrum. If that's the case, why not say that? And if he's high functioning, why is his autism relevant at all to his participation in a talent competition? Why is he being "sold" on the show as some kind of miraculous case? What's with the "I had autism" nonsense? I find it all quite offensive.
  • teriwttteriwtt Super Moderator Posts: 12,525 Super Moderator

    CC now allows links to YouTube videos as long as the video remains within appropriate boundaries. Anything offensive will be prohibited and posters will be held accountable.

    For further questions, please refer to the CC Terms of Service.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 18,836 Senior Member
    I think the child does look to be on the autistic spectrum in this video.
    YouTube - James Hobley: A Success Story - Autism, Disco and Me - BBC Three

    He is at least a year older in the audition video here:
    YouTube - James Hobley - Britain's Got Talent 2011 audition - itv.com/talent - UK Version

    I would note that this statement:
    Autism doesn't go away.
    is misleading and untrue of interpreted to mean that childhood symptoms of autism are permanent. Autism certainly doesn't "go away" in the sense that one might recover spontaneously, but it is a developmental condition and autistic children can and do learn, grow, and overcome many of the overt symptoms an behaviors over time, to varying degrees. For some, that means that by the time they reach adolescence or adulthood, they would not seem disabled in ordinary encounters; others may have very little progress even with years of therapy. Each individual is different. "Low functioning" children sometimes grow up to be "high functioning" teenagers and adults.

    My guess is that the dancing has helped this young man overcome many of the sensory and body-awareness issues that can be associated with autism, so for him, the dance itself has probably been a major part of his therapy.

    However, I wouldn't assume that simply because he has mastered the social skills needed to function within a dance studio or answer questions posed by competition judges that he necessarily is doing as well in other contexts. He may, or he may not -- the point is that all children have to learn social skills as they grow older, and those on the autistic spectrum have a harder time -- what comes naturally to others may require a lot of thought and practice for them.

    That being said -- as a dance parent I have to say that I am not particularly impressed with his dancing on the audition tape. He's got a lot of flexibility and potential as a dancer, but I've seen a lot better in terms of natural musicality and skill in younger children. I would tend to agree that if he is in a regular talent competition, he should be judged on the same basis as the other contestants.
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 16,414 Senior Member
    The boy is only 11, and as Calmom points out, in earlier YouTubes he looks like he is definitely affected by autism. So, great for him that he is making so much progress.

    But jeez, for someone who is supposed to be a top talent-- he isn't. His balance is off, his timing is off. If he weren't autistic, I doubt if he'd be on Britain's Got Talent. That kind of ugly condescension is what we can all do without.
  • kayb92kayb92 Registered User Posts: 463 Member
    As a volunteer at a therapeutic riding center, and as the best friend of a girl with a HF Autistic brother, he does strike me as Autistic. Dance was (and still is) probably part of his therapy. I've seen recoveries like this with riding: 5 year old who can't speak, make eye contact, or live without wearing diapers. Four months later he's making eye contact, stopped wearing diapers, and cheerfully greets everyone (even the horses!) by name. Knows all the colors for horse hair colors, which are sometimes complicated words for a young child (buckskin, bay, dappled, etc.).

    I did notice his balance was off (as someone else already pointed out. I'm not a dancer but many of my friends are), but he wowed me on the flexibility bit. Plus, it's essentially a popularity contest and with his story he'll do well. Note the song choice...it fits well for a kid who has struggled with himself.
  • NYMomof2NYMomof2 Registered User Posts: 5,952 Senior Member
    He is not getting good training. There is no strength in his core (this is the reason for the balance problems), and his shoulders/arms/head positions are terrible. As others have said, he is extremely flexible and potentially has a very nice line. He needs a better school.
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 16,414 Senior Member
    I'm not an expert on dance and have no idea about this kid's training and whether he's doing core strength work, but balance problems are typical of people on the autism spectrum, even people who are strong. He might have poor balance despite excellent training.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 18,836 Senior Member
    He might have poor balance despite excellent training.

    That's true, which is one reason that the dance may be having the therapeutic impact -- it's improving the balance, and the lack of balance may be a cause as well as a symptom of autism. (I mean, imagine you walked around feeling dizzy and off balance all of the time -- you might have a hard time focusing on others, conversing with them, making eye contact, etc. -- get rid of the dizziness and maybe some of the other stuff comes easier too.). That could also be part of the value of the riding therapy kayb92 describes as well.

    I just think the problem is that he's not quite there yet for the Britain's Got Talent show -- though I have to say that I've seen plenty of weak dancing there and on America's Got Talent. There was another dance-competition show that was on recently -- the name escapes me now - where the dancing was so terrible that it was a running joke in my family. And I don't even bother with "Dancing with the Stars".

    I think unfortunately it can be easy to impress an audience that really doesn't know dance with some fancy moves. My daughter did acrobatics as well as dance and she could have perfect technique on stage and no one would notice, but if she threw in a backflip or an aerial, it was sure to get applause. That stuff takes practice, too.... but it's not dance. It is doing tricks while dancing.

    I do see why James' mom may be really encouraging the dance competitions though. In his case, in addition to the dance training, the competing thrusts him into a very demanding social environment -- he's got to interact constantly with his dance teachers, with the other dance students at the studio, and be constantly meeting new people at the competitions. (Back stage at a competition is a very crowded place with a lot of activity & high level of stress). It would probably be overwhelming for many autistic kids, but if James is motivated enough by his love of dance to confront the constant social interaction that comes with it -- then it's easy to see why his social skills have improved so much over time. So I'd have to say that it looks like the mom is doing a terrific job raising her son in a way that is helping overcome the barriers he started out with.
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 16,414 Senior Member
    Interesting theory, calmom, but people with autism don't go around feeling dizzy; I told my Aspie son, who has very poor balance, about that theory and he just laughed. Rather, people with autism have poor proprioception: they are not good at feeling where their body is in space. As well as having poor balance, they may run into things.
  • Emaheevul07Emaheevul07 Registered User Posts: 5,966 Senior Member
    ^That sounds about right to me. No dizzyness, I just walk into things. My boyfriend noticed that I always walk on the very, very edge of things which leads to me running into them... I hadn't noticed, but I do know I got in trouble when I was learning to drive because I always wanted to stick right to one side of the lane instead of driving in the middle, and I twist my ankles all the time slipping off the sidewalk from walking on the very edge. Maybe I do that to compensate for poor proprioception. I always end up running into the sides of door frames, too.

    My balance is pretty good, though. I'm not very coordinated, so sports with balls were out of the question, but I did karate, figure skating, and show jumping and I was always good at those and had great balance. I just slam into things constantly. I am /covered/ in bruises.
This discussion has been closed.