Autism with Attitude street dance group from Hillingdon Manor School, Uxbridge, has taken its success to a new level and is thrilled to have won the bronze medal at the United Dance Organisation (UDO) World Championships in Blackpool on 25 August. The troupe, which has previously made history by becoming the first special needs team to compete at national and international mainstream competitions, now ranks third globally in the Over 18 category, and is a shining example of what young people with autism can accomplish.
Part of Outcomes First Group, Hillingdon Manor School provides specialist education and support to pupils with autism aged three to nineteen. Dance teacher Jonathan Baron founded Autism with Attitude in 2013 after students from the school wowed audiences with their act at ‘Autism’s Got Talent’, a talent show set up by Anna Kennedy OBE.
Six years on, the dancers have worked incredibly hard to build both their physical abilities and their performance skills, guided by Jonathan who is a trained professional dancer and winner of an Inspirational Teacher Award from the National Association for Special Educational Needs (Nasen). Together, they have overcome numerous challenges to achieve phenomenal success – even appearing on the BBC One hit show The Greatest Dancer. The group’s perseverance and talents have inspired millions and had a lasting positive impact on public perception and understanding of autism.
At this year’s UDO World Championships, AwA faced tough competition from 15 other teams in the Over 18 category in the preliminary round, but impressed the judges so much with their stunning moves that they went straight through to the final. The troupe’s rigorous training – stretching them both physically and mentally – paid off and they gave a world-class performance to earn third place in the final.
Commenting on the team’s latest success, dance teacher Jonathan said, “The team has worked so hard for this and it shows! They’ve made history and had a massive impact at such a mainstream event. Their performance was incredible; there have been a lot of happy tears. To rank third overall out of 16 high calibre international teams is an amazing achievement – I am so proud of each and every member of the team!”
Graham Baker, CEO of Outcomes First Group, added, “This is a groundbreaking triumph for AwA and for the autism community worldwide – the team and Jonathan are an inspiration. Helping those with autism to reach their full potential by providing tailored support is central to what we offer individuals in our specialist schools and residential care homes. Each child or adult with autism is unique, and developing each individual’s strengths and confidence is key to unlocking opportunities – something AwA has done with style!”