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This Strictly Come Dancing super-fan has big dreams and wants to bust myths about Down's syndrome

Andrew first won people's hearts on ITV's The Greatest Dancer and he now has over 60,000 followers on TikTok

Dance/ Strictly

Andrew, 26, is determined that he will make it in the dance world. And he's got serious talent. Image: Supplied

Andrew wants nothing more than to be on Strictly Come Dancing. His mum Donna, who is sitting next to him as we chat, pulls a face and laughs as though she has heard that one too many times, but she’s his biggest fan really. She knows her son has talent and she is ringing everyone she can to get him a cameo on the show.

It wouldn’t be Andrew’s first glimpse at stardom. The 25-year-old, who has Down’s syndrome, won audience’s hearts when he appeared on ITV’s The Greatest Dancer and has nearly 65,000 followers on TikTok where he flaunts his moves. 

We’re chatting because Andrew wants to bust myths. He wants to show the world that people with a learning disability can shoot for their dreams and achieve their goals. It might take a little bit of patience and help, but he’s got big plans for his future and he’s not afraid of the spotlight. 

“It makes me happy and free,” Andrew says when I ask him what it is he loves about dance, but only after he tells me how much he loves Strictly and that he would love to be on the show. Love is maybe too soft a word. He would adore it. The show is his ultimate dream. 

“We’re working on it,” Donna says, plotting that her son might have an appearance one day. “They all know him at Strictly. A couple of the choreographers follow him, so we tag them in most stuff.” Andrew learnt to dance by watching the show, then learning the parts of both the celebrity and professional. 

Andrew is already a bit of a star in his own right, and Donna proudly rattles off his achievements. He recently raised £18,000 for the charity Mencap, for which he is an ambassador, through taking on 15 different dances. 

He played the leading role in a staging of King Arthur by his dance troupe Tailfeatherdance, which gives young adult dancers with a learning disability the opportunity and platform to develop their dance and performance skills. Andrew says he wasn’t scared being in front of an audience. That’s where he thrives.

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Donna was keen to make sure Andrew was given the support he needed to get ahead in a world that doesn’t always make it easy for people who have Down’s syndrome. Employers can be reluctant to take on people with a learning disability, which is partly down to stigma, the inaccessibility of roles and a lack of understanding as to how to support people. 

Just 5% of adults with a learning disability in England are in paid work, according to NHS statistics. Mencap is campaigning to bust myths around learning disabilities to encourage employers to educate themselves and open up to people from different backgrounds. 

Andrew is one of the few who has been able to secure part-time work. Donna put up a post on her local Facebook group with a picture of Andrew to see if anyone had work going, and it was shared 700 times. They got quite a few offers, including at a vets and one from a local hairdresser where he has worked part-time for a year now. 

He gets to meet lots of new people, which he adores, and his colleagues are welcoming and supportive. It is not quite the dream of his name up in lights on the Strictly stage but he is determined to get there eventually. Donna will be by his side all the way.

It’s clear she is a mum who is very proud, but Andrew is proud of her too. When I ask him what his mum means to him, he says: “Lovely. Legend. Beautiful.” They beam at each other and laugh.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

Find out more about Mencap and Learning Disability Week here.

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