AS A YOUNG boy, Lewis McDermid was a lost soul – bereft of confidence and striving to be understood.

He spent most of his younger years in isolation, in battle with his own anxiety, and in search of an forum to nurture his passion.

While fitting in with peers may well have been easy for many, Lewis found socialising to be a constant toil. And one which was fairly fruitless

Yet, beneath his soft-spoken facade is a verifiable sporting hero; a modern-day gladiator, and a potential star of the future.

In the last few years, this gentle giant has accomplished what many would struggle to do in a lifetime, and against much greater odds.

Before he racked up over 50 medals to his name, the Alva teenager was simply having a tough time getting by. Living with autism and language difficulties, he spent years being ostracised by others.

His mum Tracey, told the Advertiser how Lewis has since transformed his own fortunes, having uncovered a tangible strength among his achievements.

Indeed, looking back, she can hardly believe the change.

"When Lewis was in primary school he really struggled," she said. "He didn't understand social rules and what other kids expected from him.

"It did lead to a bit of grief, and it was difficult because he wasn't fully understood."

Those experiences had a big impact on Lewis' confidence, and led to him becoming depressed and isolated.

But, when he moved into his final year at Alva Primary School, he came across someone who seemed to understand exactly how to help him.

Tracey added: "He got a really good teacher, Mr [David] Kerr, who done a lot of work with Lewis to include him really well within the classroom.

"From that they put him forward for the Clackmannanshire Council primary school athletics for the Additional Support Needs (ASN) department.

"He'd never really been interested in sport, but he went and won gold in javelin."

Even today, Lewis admitted he still feels "very chuffed" when looking back on his first medal – a huge turning point which opened the floodgates for many more to come.

"It exploded in high school," Tracey continued. "He started getting more and more involved in all the competitions.

"Because he'd got involved in the javelin at primary he wanted to try it again and he just kept winning medals.

"The more he won, the more he wanted to go along."

But Lewis' skills were not just confined to the javelin, as he started competing in long jump, track, along with judo.

He also became involved with the Forth Valley Flyers group, and has been training with them for around two years.

To date, he has won 25 gold, 16 silver, and 14 bronze medals in athletics, as well as a further five medals for judo.

He has also won the Clacks Council Triumph Over Adversity Award for Sports Competitor for the last two years running.

Most recently, he was named as the winner in the Sports Achievement category at the Scottish Learning Disability Awards on May 17.

The effects of all of these achievements have been life changing for Lewis, and when asked how sport has turned his life around, he said: "It's made a major impact on me."

Then, with a smile, he nudged his mum and said: "Do you want to tell him [the reporter] what happened last year? What made me more confident – the school speech."

Tracey then said: "He ran for head boy last year, and stood up in front of people and gave a speech.

"A lot of people were saying: 'Will Lewis manage that?' because he struggles with communication.

"But he went up there and he done that speech."

Although he missed out on the head boy position, Lewis became a school ambassador and house captain at A lva Academy.

Mum Tracey said that without the confidence built up through his sporting achievements, he would "never" have been able to give that speech.

Then, reflecting on how much of a difference she's seen in her son since that first gold medal in P7, she proudly said: "He's a totally different boy. Totally different.

"He's worked so hard to make things right in his life and deal with any issues he's had, socially and emotionally.

"Since he's went into sport, he's just so keen to succeed in everything he does."

Now, in his free time, Lewis volunteers to help other young people, both in sports and in school.

In particular, he helps youngsters with conditions such as autism as they transition from primary school into high school – using his own experiences to guide others who might be struggling.

When asked about what he hopes to achieve in future, Lewis, who will soon be starting college, said: "The special Olympics, and I want to be a mixed martial artist as well."

Tracey's pride is palpable, but she is not the only one to take such great comfort in his achievements.

David Kerr, the primary school teacher who helped Lewis out of his shell, is honoured to be a part of the young man's journey.

"I'm very proud of Lewis," he said. "He's shown real guts and determination, and hasn't let any barriers get in his way.

"He's inspired many other people who perhaps find things difficult in life, by proving anything is possible if you have the right mindset.

"He really has done himself and his friends, family, and of course me as well, very proud."