James Hobley Biography ~
as told by his mother Sheila Hobley
James was born two months prematurely. He is a twin and both he and his twin (George) spent the first month of their life in a special care unit inhospital. As they got older it became apparent that something was wrong. They were both missing developmental goals and cried a lot. No one got much sleep in the house when they were younger. I knew from early on that James had autism. It was easy for me to spot as my eldest son Alex was diagnosed with autism at 5 years old. Before Alex was born, I hadn’t heard of autism.
James would refuse to give eye contact. He looked at me from the corner of his eye so I was always in his peripheral vision. James didn’t play with his toys or books…instead; he broke them and ripped up his books. He tore pages out of them and seemed to be locked in his own world. He didn’t make much noise at all until he suddenly started to speak at around 3 years old. He was a child of very few words. He could speak but preferred to remain silent. He was always in Georges shadowand George did the talking for both of them. They understood each other on a deeper level and had little need for words. James was late walkingand when he did start, he walked on tiptoes with his hands flapping when he got excited. Eventuallyhe couldn’t put his heels on the floor as his tendons up the backs of both legs had tightened so much. He had to wear orthopaedic boots and splints on both legs day and night. He hated it!
Both twins were officially diagnosed with autism at 5 years old and sent to a special needs school. James wouldn’t mix with the other children and remained detached from people. He preferred the company of animals to people. James was nearly 8 years old and couldn’t read or write and showed no signs of progressing in that direction at all.
Looking back it is always difficult to think of that one defining moment that changed his life forever and set him on a very different course in life…but it really all did start with a leaflet coming through our door advertising dance classes for fun. It was a local venue and said no experience needed! I took both James and his twin George along. George didn’t like it but James loved it. It was a chance for him to take off his splints and dance barefoot. He must have felt an immense sense of freedom in the movement. He continued going twice a weekand after a few weeks the teacher asked if he wanted to officially join the dance school. He went to his first dance competition a few weeks later and won a trophy!
Within 6 months of starting dancing, James no longer needed the splints and boots as his tendons had stretched naturally and he was reading and writing!
James loved his disco dancing and made a documentary with BBC about his life and his autism. Duringfilming he was taken to see a balletand that was it!!! He decided right there and then he wanted to be a famous ballet dancer one day. He was 10 years old and wanted to go to full time ballet school. I had always thought that ballet schools were for the rich and privileged. We were a low income family and had no financial means to pay for a place at a ballet school.
We were lucky enough to find a teacher locally who said James showed some good potential and had the right body type for ballet so he started taking lessons and took his RAD exams there. He managed to get distinctions in all his exams in just over a year whilst he was there. He was taking a dance exam every few months. She suggested that we apply to some of the bigger UK schools which we didand James was offered a full scholarship to The Hammond Ballet School.
During this time, James decided to apply for a Talent show on TV called Britains got Talent. To our enormous surprise he got through to the live shows. We were astonished as there are over 50,000 people apply each year. James made it through to the finals of the show and went on tour with the finalists. He had made it to the last 8 acts in the competition. He became an overnight celebrity and couldn’t go outside without being asked for a photo or an autograph.
The show had a positive influence on his life and gave him a platform to raise autism awareness and perform for autism charities. It gave him some wonderful performance opportunities. He has danced in all the major stadiums in the UK, been honoured in Times Square New York, opened the World Autism Conference in San Sebastian and chosen to carry the Olympic flame because of his inspirational work.
There has been a personal cost to the family. We haven’t been able to spend as much time together as a family because James is away from home a lotand we haven’t had a holiday for over 3 years. Any spare money was always spent on James’s dancing.
George has now found a hobby which he hopes to take further. He is attending Taekwondo classesand within a few months of taking classes, he won the under 14 Scottish Taekwondo title. He is now ready to compete in Wales next month hoping to add a Welsh title to his achievements.
Both boys have a determination and drive that is remarkable and shows that with the right encouragement and support someone with autism can achieve great things.
When James was on Britain’s got Talent, he told the judges, “Dancing is my life!”
Dancing is all James lives for. It is the focus of every day for him. His dream is to be a world famous ballet dancer.
My advice to everyone out there …”DREAM BIG!”
Please help out. James is trying to get to Canada this fall. He has been nominated for an award through the Performing Arts Youth category at the International Naturally Autistic People Awards, based in Vancouver, Canada. He will also perform there. The link to donate is: http://www.gofundme.com/3nqi7o
James & his mum!