Ben Bartlett has struggled with a form of autism all of his life - until performing helped him come out of his shell three years ago.
The Hartlepool 11-year-old’s life has changed after he started singing and dancing, and recently won the Most Promising Musician Award at the Hartlepool Music and Arts Festival.
He has also had other personal successes such as getting down to the final 12 boys for auditions for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End, and also got through to the producer’s round of Britain’s Got Talent singing Titanium, by David Guetta.
He has also been asked to audition for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain.
But it hasn’t all come easy for Ben who was diagnosed aged six with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, which is a life-long disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, and how they socially interact and communicate.
His mum, Julie Bartlett was at the end of her tether and in a last ditch attempt to help Ben she enrolled him in the Val Armstong School of Performing Arts.
It was there that Ben flourished through his music, dancing and performing arts.
Julie, 47, a teaching assistant at Catcote Academy, told the Mail: “He’s been singing all of his life but I never really thought about using that to help him until about three years ago.
“His behaviour was shocking with his condition and I just didn’t know what to do with him. He couldn’t socialise, he couldn’t get attached to anybody, he would have tantrums and meltdowns in the street. He doesn’t understand people’s feelings or instructions, and people think he’s being pedantic sometimes, but it’s his condition.
“It has to be black or white with Ben, he is very rigid in his routines.
“He used to sit on a computer with his head phones on.
“Then I found June Parker who is head of music at Val Armstrong’s and it changed our lives, he’s done so well.”
Julie, who is married to Ben’s dad Paul Bartlett, a builder, and lives in Oakley Gardens, Hartlepool, said: “We’re so proud of him, I cry every time I see him on stage!
“He actually loves doing it as well, from opening his eyes on a morning he’s singing.
“It’s such a relief. It’s taken off and I never would have imagined he would have got as far as he has.”
Ben, who is the youngest of six children in the family, attended Springwell School, but now goes to Ward Jackson Primary School. He is due to start English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College in September.