Dancing with a disability, making international headlines

By Jillian Marshall

December 5, 2013 Updated Dec 6, 2013 at 1:05 AM EDT

Town of Dickinson, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A local boy with Down syndrome has been nominated for Man of the Year for an international dancing magazine. What makes him special has little to do with his disability, and everything about his ability to move his feet.

Austin Kulp,18, of Vestal, is a student in the Preparation for Adult Learning Success (PALS) at BOCES, a program that teaches students with disabilities how to live on their own.

But Austin is different from other 18-year-olds, he is a finalist in Irish Dancing and Culture magazine's 2013 Man of the Year competition.

Austin is one of 12 finalists, the only from New York this year, and is the first ever finalist with Down syndrome.

He has been dancing for the past 13 years. His mother, Barbara Kulp, said his love of dance started when he would watch his older sister dance.

"I would take him in the strollers and I would lose him," Barbara said. "He would end up on a stage somewhere dancing, so we figured we better get him involved in Irish Dancing, so we did and people just love to watch him."

Austin dances in more than 75 shows and parades every year and competes all over the country and in Canada.

When Austin was dancing in a competition in Delaware, he touched one family with his love and passion for Irish dancing so much, they nominated him for the international award.

"I am so happy. I was so excited," Austin said.

Barbara said Austin practices five hours a day in the summer, and dancing has helped combat the side effects of Down syndrome.

"He is absolutely amazing when he gets out there and dances and there's usually not a dry eye in the house," Barbara said.

Outside of Irish dancing, administrators at BOCES said Austin is heavily involved in school activities, he is the PALS mascot, and he's a role model to fellow students.

"He's really an inspiration for his classmates, and the staff that has worked with him for years," said PALS Principal Maggie Collins.

Austin says he will continue to dance, and he cannot wait for St. Patrick's day to dance in the parade in Binghamton.

Action News spoke with Austin on Thursday, just before the interview, Austin was named the PALS Student of the month for his participation and leadership at school.

The photographs of Austin in the magazine were taken by Marcella Green, a student at Binghamton University.

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