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How dance transformed this autistic Devon teenager's life

Ollie Venning Photo: ITV News West Country

Two years ago life was pretty bleak for Ollie Venning.

He would come home from school every day with writing all over his arms, cruel words about how worthless he felt, how he hated life so much that he'd drawn on himself because he was so miserable.

Ollie has autism.

He was bullied by other children because he was different and when he came home from school he would take his anger and despair out on his family. They were all at their wits end.

Ollie's mum Emma took the decision to pull him out of school and home educate him, but she was desperate to find him something just for him.

Ollie's mum, Emma, speaking to ITV's Jacquie Bird. Credit: ITV News West Country

And Plymouth's Street Factory was just the outlet they needed.

Ollie had loved dance since he was a little boy and although the first session was hard and he found it difficult to communicate, be has become one of the mentors to the other young dancers.

Ollie's mum said: "When he first started coming, he never used to make eye contact with anybody, he used sit on the sofa and take quite a while to interact.

"Slowly he started to build a relationship with Toby and some of the other dancers and once he knew he could trust them, he actually referred to being able to come somewhere and be himself and nobody judged him and he was away then.

"And he's got some fantastic friendships formed here, which is brilliant."

Toby Gorniak. Credit: ITV News West Country

Toby is Toby Gorniak who runs Street Factory with his wife Jo. It's a dance school, but it's one with a difference.

At the core of it, they say are five elements. Respect, Peace, Love, Unity and having fun. It's all about seeing people for who they are.

Nobody is marked out as different at Street Factory, they are all individuals, they're not put into boxes or categories.

Toby said: "Every one of us is a genius in something that we love to do but many of us haven't discovered it yet. So it's about helping them to discover that genius in who they are."

And that has been what has been unlocked in Ollie. The dance that's transformed him is popping.

It's a dance based on the technique of contracting and relaxing muscles so the dancers' body appears to jerk. Ollie has it off to a tee.

Ollie dancing. Credit: ITV News West Country

Toby said: "Now he's going to work on a new piece, he's got the next four months of hard work to create a piece and then that will be performed and his story will just go on.

"That's the thing with Ollie, he's just going to grow, grow as an artist, as a performer and who knows where we are going to see him next."

And as for Emma, she couldn't be prouder of her son.

"He just makes me so proud. Every time I see him dancing, it's like just when I think I can't get any more proud, it's like, he pulls something out of the bag and it's like wow, it's just fantastic."

Ollie will be performing at Autism's Got Talent, a red carpet event at the Mermaid Theatre in London in May.

He's one of only a handful of performers from around the world to be selected in this celebration of everyone on the autistic spectrum.