Man with autism credits ballet with saving his life

A 20-year-old man diagnosed with the most severe form of autism at a young age now stars in a premier ballet company that he credits with saving his life.

“They said I would never be able to live on my own or take care of myself,” Philip Martin-Nelson told For the first three years of his life Martin-Nelson was unable to speak, make eye contact or even allow someone to touch him.

His parents sought therapy for him and enrolled him in sports and gymnastics. When he finally gained the ability to speak, he told them he wanted to dance.

“My mom used to tell me when we would put Barney on the TV and I would memorize the dances before I could speak,” Martin-Nelson told

When he was 6, Martin-Nelson was enrolled in his first ballet class where dancing “unlocked” him.

“That was the first time they saw me focus, and the first time they saw me really wanting to do something and really paying attention,” he told

Dance began affecting every aspect of his life, as he even spent lunch-time inside playing music and dancing.

Today Martin-Nelson is a principal dancer at Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male ballet company. He credits his therapists and his support system to getting him to where he is today.

“Ballet is what saved my whole life. If I didn’t have ballet, if I never stepped into that first ballet class I probably would have never recovered,” he told

“I would probably still be in special schools to this day and trying just to get by,” he said.

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