LAFAYETTE, Colo. (CBS4) – A team of cheerleaders in Colorado will represent the USA in an international competition. Twelve-year-old Lexi O’Shields is on that team. She was diagnosed with autism when she was 2 1/2 years old.

“The thing I like best about cheer is the dance,” she said before launching into her favorite cheer.

(credit: CBS)

Her mom Maryann O’Shields says when it comes to cheerleading her daughter is just part of the team, because every one of her teammates has a disability as well.

“These kids can do it, they are doing it by themselves, even when some of them are struggling,” she said.

For the last 12 years, Head Coach Michelle Kostelecky says she has watched as those challenges all-but-disappear on the mat.

(credit: CBS)

They are completely unassisted during stunts, lifts and any tumbling.

“We really wanted to focus on showing that these kids can do what every other athlete can do.”

For months, the team has been putting in the hours at practice learning a new cheer and new routine before their next big performance.

“We are getting ready for USA competition,” Lexi said.

This year they are competing as the U.S. National Special Abilities Team, a title they earned.

(credit: CBS)

While they want to win every competition, at the end of the day it is clear for these athletes and their families the experience is everything.

“She gets to be part of a team to push herself try new things and she gets to fail and that’s important.”

Before the team leaves for the competition they are hoping to raise some money to help pay for expenses.

If you would like to help, you can visit their GoFundMe page.

Karen Morfitt

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