Derry teenager Ritchie Collins Moore is living proof that you can follow your dream even after a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).
The 19-year-old Waterside actor and writer’s first stage play, ‘Isolated People’ which will debut at the Millennium Forum next month, is based on his own experience of challenging the condition.
Having been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome aged six, Ritchie said he was often told he wouldn’t achieve academically.
“But that doesn’t mean I can’t achieve in other ways. So I put two fingers up to that attitude and got on with it,” he smiled.
Ritchie says that he learned to adapt his life to live with Asperger’s as opposed to being defined by it.
“I owe a lot to Christine Clelland, my teacher in Ebrington Primary School. I never socialised, nor had I any confidence. At least not until I was ten years-old and started drama classes.
“I became obsessive, which is a characteristic of Asperger’s. That obsession turned to passion and after my GCSEs I qualified with a National Diploma in Performing Arts at the NWIFHE.
“Drama is what I am interested in. It is all about believing in yourself and that is what you have to do when you have an ASD.”
The Waterside teenager is certainly going places. In September he travels to Manchester to shoot Channel Four drama ‘The Endz’.
The former Oakgrove College pupil landed a part in the first series of ‘The Endz’ and was delighted when they recalled him for the second series.
“I play Terry Butler and it is a good part. The cast are all young, we all learn from each other.
“It is a brilliant experience. I landed the part after open auditions in Manchester.
“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘I’ll never get this, it’s my first audition,’ but I did. I always wanted to work on TV and it was my first audition so I was delighted.”
Ritchie has won the support of many other drama practitioners, not least Marion Kenny, who directs ‘Isolated People.’
“Marion got the project off the ground and I’m very thankful to her. I have a great cast and am enjoying rehearsals even though it is hard work. The play is about exploring what happens following a diagnosis of ASD.
“It is a great piece for parents of those recently diagnosed, or for anyone who encounters autism on a daily basis.
“It also explores the relationship between a mother and father and how they react to their child having ASD.”
Local actor Kieran Griffiths stars in the production alongside Amanda Jayne Hudson and Rose McCormick.
‘Isolated People’ opens at the Millennium Forum on Monday June 4. Tickets £12.