Goggleboxs Tom Malone Jr wants to change stigma after receiving diagosis
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After being diagnosed with autism at the age of 28, former Gogglebox star Tom Malone Jr has revealed he wants to change the stigma surrounding the spectrum condition. The 30-year-old went to his local GP after his nephew started exhibiting traits of autism, as he wanted him to be able to relate to someone who felt the same way he did.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, the dancer explained: “I’m trying to change the stigma around it, there’s a lot of people like me who probably grew up thinking they don’t fit into the stereotypes of what autism is, but in actual fact those stereotypes shouldn’t exist.”
After various phone calls and an assessment, Tom got his diagnosis and it stirred up plenty of emotions inside of him, much to his surprise. He divulged: “It was a really weird mixture of emotions, I got really emotional which I didn’t expect, and then it was a process at first to think of which parts of my personality were me and which parts of my personality are due to my autism.
“But then I got to a point where I realised that I can’t separate myself from being autistic, it’s just the way my brain works and processes things.” The television personality says he hyper-focuses on things a lot and finds it difficult to concentrate on one particular thing if he can hear small sounds, leading to him feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
However, as a youngster, Tom used dance as a way to cope with his undiagnosed autism and still does so today as a full-time dancer.
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“In ways, dancing was my coping mechanism. I’m not really an expressive person, I have a very monotone voice, I’m a man of few words so it was the one place I could express,” the Channel 4 star said.
“I think that’s probably one of the reasons why I fell in love with it and I’ve stuck to it. Obviously I didn’t know I was autistic when I was younger, I was diagnosed later in life, but because of the things I struggled with, dance gave me an outlet for that.”
Tom is working with Pro-Excel, a Manchester-based organisation that brings together young people from diverse backgrounds to create opportunities, which might not otherwise be open to them.
The organisation, along with Tom took 157 people to Miami last week for five days with a major partnership with the world-famous Miami Dolphins, which culminated in a live half-time performance alongside the official Dolphins cheerleaders at the Hard Rock stadium in front of a live audience of 63,000 people.
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Speaking about why he decided to get involved with this organisation, Tom explained: “I was lucky to be from a two parent household where my mum would drive me to dance classes or boxing to make sure I could do the things I wanted to do, a lot of people from my background don’t have that.”
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