How stepping into the ring has changed life of eight-year-old autistic boy

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from boxing training. Picture: DEN

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from boxing training. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

An eight-year-old living with autism who previously struggled with lashing out at other children has found a positive outlet for his aggression.

Xander Waldrum, from Taverham is autistic and as a result, can find it difficult to control his temper in unfamiliar situations.

However, after being introduced to the boxing ring, he has now been able to channel his aggression into his training - and is leading a mellower life outside of it as a result.

His mum Briony Thompson, 35, a dancer and WAW wrestling MC, never gave up on him and helped him discover this outlet.  

“Xander's main difficulties are dealing with sudden change, taking things too logically, and expressing his emotions, as he doesn't understand them completely,” said Ms Thompson. 
 
“Since starting his new school back in last July he has been amazing with his behaviour and manners and understanding of the world as they have helped him brilliantly” 

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom at boxing training with his mum Briony Thompson. Picture: DENISE BRADL

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom at boxing training with his mum Briony Thompson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021


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Miss Thompson spoke to a behavioural specialist to seek advice on how to further support her son, as she explored ways of managing his troubles.

She said: “They advised an anger room for him to release his anger, which I unfortunately don't have the space for.

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“I heard about these one-to-one sessions at the gym and, I thought I'd give it a try; I was hesitant at first as I didn't think he would do the whole half hour
 
“So, we started it at 20 minutes. which he did and loved. Darrell [his trainer] is brilliant with him, he is very patient and lets him have breaks He also incorporates Xander's interests into the boxing such as Godzilla and King Kong” 

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from boxing training. Picture: DEN

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from boxing training. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021


“Over the weeks I slowly extended the timer and now he actually does the full 30 minutes on the timer and he loves it."

And Miss Thompson said that since taking up the sport, Xander has not lashed out at any other children - something he had done in the past.

Xander said his favourite thing about boxing was "hitting the bags and the boss head thingy", adding his favourite strike is an upper-cut.

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from boxing training. Picture: DEN

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from boxing training. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021


He added that when he is older he would like to be a zookeeper.

Darrell High, Xanders Trainer said: “I’ve known Xander for a little while now and if I could put into words how much I’ve seen a change in him, it still wouldn’t do justice.

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from his boxing training with his

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from his boxing training with his one-to-one coach, Darrell High. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

"It’s been a pleasure to coach him through the sport of boxing and this shows just how beneficial that a sport like boxing really is, especially in young people. 

"He handles remembering different combinations and staying calm in difficult situations. It allows him to think about what he does, as he does it and being coordinated at the same time.” 

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from his boxing training with his

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from his boxing training with his one-to-one coach, Darrell High. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

He added “I think this translates well outside of gym and teaches you a lot about yourself. People like Xander remind me why I do this work and make it worth it.” 

Miss Thompson added: “It's very challenging having a child with autism, not because of the autism itself, it's other people's lack of knowledge, judgement and lack of understanding that's the hard times as people just think they see a naughty child when that's not the case at all” 

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from his boxing training with his

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom, who has autism, but is benefitting from his boxing training with his one-to-one coach, Darrell High. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

And her advice to any other parent raising a child on the spectrum is to follow their instincts.

She added “Fight for everything they deserve. The system makes it so hard for autistic children to get the help they need. It took me three years of fighting to get my son into a special needs school. It shouldn't be that hard.

“And yes, many people are going to judge your child, or your parenting skills, but you have to either ignore it, stand up to it or explain it so that they understand. Instead of trying to change your child, step into their amazing world and try it see it through their eyes.”

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom at boxing training with his mum Briony Thompson. Picture: DENISE BRADL

Eight-year-old Xander Waldrom at boxing training with his mum Briony Thompson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

If you are a young person who has a story to tell or would be interested in having your voice heard in the paper, please contact Sophie Skyring via sophie.skyring@archant.co.uk  

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