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Heidi Kirrage – writes about her son Callum (an AGT Performer)  on adoption and autism 

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The 26th of February 2008 was a day that changed both mine and my husband’s life forever, it was the day we would pick up our precious son from the orphanage in Russia where he had lived until we were thrown together in an amazing whirlwind of love craziness exhaustion and explosive happiness that became our family!

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Becoming an instant mum to a toddler who had had a traumatic start in life and was on the go constantly and a very scared little boy who was dealing with the life changing events that were happening to him was hard and emotionally exhausting for everyone but we knew he needed us and we needed him and we were now a family forever unconditionally.

Callum was always a highly active child; I was never a Mum who could sit and chat over a cuppa because Callum was always on the move and usually at high speed too!

He would get very obsessional over things and would have meltdowns, so I had to be constantly behind him and trying to calm him down but his contagious smile and zest for life made every crazy moment worth it!

Callum was diagnosed with ADHD in 2012 and with autism in 2013, they also suspected ASD.

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Life for us was turned upside down, not because we felt any less love for him, if anything probably even more but because we wanted to protect him, do our best for him but were left desperately wondering where to turn for the best support for us all.

 I found myself attending a local group for parents/carers of children with SN. Through this I gained a lot of support from other people in my position and the ability to share and gain knowledge from others has been amazing.

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Callum needed a way to channel his energy, he needed a way to achieve and be recognised for the amazing boy he is and not just the naughty hyper boy people would often see and most of all he needed a way of gaining some self-worth and a boost to his self-esteem.

In December 2014 through the carers group I was told about Autisms Got Talent, a talent show founded by Anna Kennedy, Callum had shown a real passion for dancing so with that in mind.

We sent an entry (a YouTube clip of him dancing) into AGT at the last minute, we found out a month later he had been chosen, in May 2015 he performed at autism’s got talent at the Mermaid Theatre in London in front of a packed audience and some celebrities including Jake wood, he absolutely loved performing and he revelled in being on stage.

Following this Callum performed at Disability Rocks in June 2015 and again loved every second and as well as feeling a sense of achievement, something that does not come naturally to him.

He also made special friends through AGT something that even now he finds hard to do as peers struggle to understand him.

Callum was offered a scholarship to Pineapple Performing Arts in 2016, this is where Bboy Cal was truly born. In 2017 he was also seen at a competition and asked to dance with another dance company called boom academy to!

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Callum dances all the time, he excels in what he does and he has entered many competitions, auditions and been in countless shows, even a TV appearance on the Chrissy B show on sky with Anna Kennedy and Maggie Patterson the principle of pineapple, he likes to make videos about what it’s like to be adopted and have autism to help other people.

He has performed a few more times over the years for autism got talent roadshows and through this is now part of Awa ‘A typical with attitude’ dance group and has real sense of belonging in his dance world!!

I will not lie and say life is easy, trauma, Autism and ADHD are a tough combination for him and us!! there are days when you wonder how you made it through but we are a team and a family!

Life is not easy for Callum, he has been bullied for being adopted and being different, standing in line, sitting still are just not his bag!

He knows that he “should” be able to conform because he has been told that, he struggles to understand why he can’t always, his emotions are heightened and he sees himself in a very negative light a lot of the time.

Social situations are hard for him and the likelihood is that they always will be, we have given him the tools to try and deal with this but truly I think that dance has captured his head and more importantly his heart, to work in a team, to be a mentor to others who can see just how especially talented he is in spite of his daily battles and frustrations, they won’t stop him now! dancing is in his soul.

Special Needs should never be a barrier, for Callum and us, they were a steppingstone from a time of despair and heartbreak to finding and embracing what Callum does best- DANCE!

To those strangers who stand and stare, who pass comment and who tut and shake their head when my boy is struggling and I am trying to keep him safe and calm- don’t judge me, don’t judge him and never look down on us or feel sorry for us.

He is amazing, he has achieved so much already in his life, we don’t need your comments, your pity or anything else, this boy has so much love to give and talent to explore, we are just fine as we are, AUTISM Rocks, ADOPTION Rocks, Dance Rocks, but most of all Callum you rock our world and for that we are truly grateful and in awe of all you do! never stop being you!

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