Autism Awareness Week: Chorley rugby star Josh Charnley signs up for challenge in honour of non-verbal son

The Chorley born rugby star Josh Charnley and his wife Zoe have signed up for a gruelling physical challenge this month in honour of their non verbal son.
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32-year-old Josh, who currently plays on the wing for Leigh Leopards, lives in Charnock Richard with his wife Zoe and their two sons- Arlo, seven, and five-year-old Axel.

The couple took to Instagram this week to reveal they were taking part in a month-long physical challenge to raise money for a charity called Autism Beaudon Understanding Kindness (ABUK), which hosts playgroup and parent support groups for families with children who have autism and additional needs.

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The charity has launched a series of challenges to coincide with Autism Awareness Week (April 2-April 8), an internationally recognised annual week which aims to spread kindness and increase autism awareness throughout April.

This is a cause, and charity, that is close to the couple’s hearts as it has often been hinted that their youngest son, Axel has a form of autism.

Josh and Zoe Charnley with their sons Axel (left) and Arlo (right). Credit: @joshuacharnley on InstagramJosh and Zoe Charnley with their sons Axel (left) and Arlo (right). Credit: @joshuacharnley on Instagram
Josh and Zoe Charnley with their sons Axel (left) and Arlo (right). Credit: @joshuacharnley on Instagram

What has been said about the family’s experience with autism?

Neither Josh or Zoe have spoken publicly about either of the children having autism, however last year rugby player Josh McGuire was given a 12-match ban after being found guilty of ‘Unacceptable Language’ against Chorley’s sportstar Josh.

The language in question was said to be a form of disability discrimination and there were rumours that it was about one of Josh’s family members.

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Then in an interview with the Sun in February, former Holy Cross Catholic High School pupil Josh revealed that their youngest child- 5-year-old Axel - was non-verbal - a term usually referring to non-verbal autism.

Josh told the Sun: “It is tough but every day’s different with Axel.

“He’s non-verbal, which is the hardest part. He's progressing but he’s on a steady curve. He’s not taking a backward step, though, and his little wins are massive to us.

“If he says a new word or does a new thing, it’s a good win for the day.

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“There’ll be certain noises he makes which I won’t know but my wife Zoe will understand. We learn every day with him but he gets better every day.

“He’ll speak but it’s on his own terms. His progression will be slower but every autistic child is different, every person is different. He’s learning in new environments every day, which is good for him and us.

“He’s starting to say more words now. It is tricky but as a family we’re so supportive of him and we’ve good people around us.

“And he’s fine at matches, noise doesn’t bother him.”

The Chorley sportsmen is also currently part way through his testimonial year, which is raising money for the autism charity ABUK, as well as Derian House Childrens Hospice and Joining Jack.

What have the couple said about the challenge?

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The pair took it in turns to announce the launch of their new challenge in an Instagram video, see what was said below..

Josh: “Hi I’m Josh

Zoe: “And I’m Zoe and this year, the 2nd to the 8th of April sees the return of Autism Awareness week. I have signed up to ABUK’s three challenges.

Josh: “So the challenges are 10,000 steps, 5k a day run and the class-a-thon.

Zoe: “The main purpose of these three challenges and the whole month of April is to help raise awareness and acceptance of autism. 

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Josh: “So you can head to ABUK’s website to sign up and get involved.”

How can you help raise awareness of autism?

You can sign up for ABUK’s on their website here. It costs £15 to join each event or £30 for all three, and you will also receive an AB UK T-Shirt and be invited to our online support group.

You can also visit the National Autistic Society’s website to find out others way you can get involved in Autism Awarness.

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