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Ulster Rugby stars stand up to raise autism awareness by supporting Bronson Ross's son Che

By Lesley Houston

Published 31/03/2016

Leanne and Che
Leanne and Che
Leanne, Che and Bronson Ross
The family take a selfie as they enjoy a day out
Stuart Olding
Andrew Trimble
Bronson Ross
Craig Gilroy
Louis Ludik

The superheroes of Ulster Rugby have been showing their support for Northern Ireland's 30,000 autism sufferers in the run-up to World Autism Day on Saturday.

But these stars have been displaying their armbands on Twitter for one particular little superfan - player Bronson Ross's son Che, who recently learned of his own superpowers.

A devoted fan of Marvel comic characters, schoolboy Che, who was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum was just told of his condition aged two in the autumn.

Instead of burdening her son with a label, devoted mum Leanne sold it to him as having his own special superpowers.

Like thousands of people across Northern Ireland who will this weekend join the worldwide community of sufferers to publicise the condition, Che shares some common traits of sensory hypersensitivity in all the senses.

After a particularly stressful day at school last October when Che complained to his mum that he could not remember anything and kept dropping things, it provided the perfect opportunity to explain his condition to him - and he has never looked back.

"Just like Superman, Batman and Spider-Man who have all these different superpowers, you've got super hearing and super vision," she told him.

Leanne was referring to his sensitivity to noise, which sometimes requires him to wear special ear defenders.

Harsh light also makes him don his shades, "making you look cool just like the celebrities" she told him. The 31-year-old PR professional said as a result, her son is now much happier that he can better understand why he finds certain things more difficult than some of his friends in his P3 class at Cranmore Integrated Primary School in Belfast,

With an IQ "that's through the roof", Che breezes through his academic studies and he likes to think he might one day emulate his favourite Marvel hero, Iron Man, "who was so clever he made himself a powered suit of armour".

"He can't ride a bike or catch a ball but that's not to say that in two weeks' time he can't try again and that he will one day," Leanne said. She added when their family doctor confirmed Che was on the autism spectrum five years ago, the medical professional said "it's a prognosis, not a diagnosis".

"It's not a learning disability but an impairment and now that he knows about it he sometimes says, 'well, that's just my autistic brain' and he can laugh about it'," Leanne said.

With his motor skills making physical activity a bit more tricky than for most seven-year-olds, Leanne recognises that "if he plays rugby he's probably not going to reach the levels of his dad". "He doesn't have to excel at everything," she added.

Leanne explained that the Twitter show of support by the Ulster players such as Andrew Trimble had helped copper-fasten their positive approach to backing the condition.

"He sees the players regularly enough, but he's still in awe of them and thinks this on Twitter is great," she added.

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