A YOUNG girl who has arthritis which can leave her struggling to walk has defied the odds to become a champion dancer.

Little Ava Casement, who is only eight, woke up one morning and found she couldn't walk.

She first started having symptoms in her knee joints 10 weeks ago and was diagnosed two weeks later.

Her parents took her to the doctor, who referred her to the Royal Children's Hospital in Glasgow and doctors there diagnosed reactive arthritis.

Her mum Erin, 34, said: "I thought it was growing pains but my husband Michael has rheumatoid arthritis, so he knew the signs and Ava was diagnosed pretty quickly.

"She was worried that she wouldn't be able to dance.

"It happened all of a sudden.

"She was crying as it was very painful.

"Ava's very brave and never complains at all.

"When it flares up she can't straighten her knees and finds it hard to walk."

Ava lives with her parents Erin, a part-time carer with the council, Michael who works at the RBS Mortgage Centre, sisters Hayley, 13, and Ella, three, and brother Sean, 11, in Greenock's Ardbeg Road.

She has been a member of DM Diamondz dance troupe since she was two and is determined that her arthritis will not hold her back.

She goes to classes nearly every night of the week at the studios in Manor Crescent in Gourock where she studies everything from disco, pom and cheerleading to stretch and flex and hip hop.

Her teacher Ann Marie Campbell was so impressed by her hard work and dedication that she and the other coaches decided to award Ava the George Houston Memorial Trophy and Scholarship, which is named after Ann Marie's dad who passed away suddenly last January.

George was a tower of strength to Ann Marie and worked tirelessly to get the studio up in running in Gourock.

Ann Marie said: "He spent his 70th birthday painting the outside of the building and was putting in railings only days before he died.

"He was always saying 'work hard and make it happen', so we've adopted that for our dance school motto.

"The parents suggested erecting a memorial plaque in the studio but I decided a scholarship offering a year's free training would be a good idea."

It's a fitting tribute to my dad, he didn't like the limelight but he would be happy to know he is helping other people and encouraging them to work hard."

"It doesn't necessarily go to the best dancer but the one who continuously works hard in all the classes.

"When Ava she came to class she used to hold back tears when she struggled with stretches.

"She would often cry when she got home. "

Ava, a pupil at All Saints Primary, is delighted to pick up the prize and her mum says she is so proud of her.

Erin told the Tele: "It's brilliant, we're over the moon.

"She was shocked but delighted to win the trophy."