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Meet Ethan Fineshriber who now entering seventh grade with tons of friends — and even fans! The 11-year-old boy from Sandy, Utah, was diagnosed with autism at age 3, which made it difficult for him to communicate. But what made him come out of his shell was taekwondo.

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“He had no interest in interacting with his peers and was content spending hours in his room alone building stuff,” said Mara Fineshriber. “As his mom, you can imagine how much this killed me.” Mara Fineshriber remembers the first time her son mentioned having a friend. He was in fifth grade and made his mom cry tears of joy when he asked to go over to a classmate’s house after school.

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“He had no interest in interacting with his peers and was content spending hours in his room alone building stuff,” Mara Fineshriber said. “As his mom, you can imagine how much this killed me.” After not being invited to birthday parties and no one to play with during recess Mara Fineshriber decided to take action When Ethan was 7 years old. She took him to a local American Taekwondo Association (ATA) martial arts school.

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Ethan then underwent a complete 180 from someone that was always at his mom for forcing him to leave his room to stunned by how much he was enjoying his self.  Ethan excelled at the the Korean martial art, he has racked up more than 4,000 Instagram followers. He became above the class rather quickly and other kids began to come up, where Ethan gave step-by-step instructions

“I just love explaining things to people and feel good knowing I’m able to help them improve,” Ethan said.

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Ethan impressed his instructors with his skills so much that they suggested to his mother that he compete nationally. After he took first place at his first national tournament in March 2013, his instructors went one further by saying he has potential to win a World Championship.

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And Ethan did just that, he achieved his goal in early July at the ATA World Championship in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ethan has made some really great friends through both school and Taekwondo and credits his instructors for helping him improve his social skills.

“They taught me life lessons like how to be nice to people and show respect to others so they’ll want to be my friend,” Ethan said. “I’m very grateful to them for that.”

Ethan even went on to winning 1st place in his school’s talent show!