Uxbridge teen, Austin Riley, has seen great success racing internationally and has given presentations around the world about his experience, racing with autism.
He first stepped into a go-kart in 2007, in search of a sports activity to help with his coordination, after being diagnosed with autism.
Austin’s Dad, Jason, first tried enrolling him in soccer and power skating but nothing seemed to work. When Jason first asked his son if he wanted to try go karting, his response was, “Why would I want to do that, I suck at everything and if I go there, people will just make fun of me like always and I’ll get upset.”
After much persuasion, Jason convinced Austin to come with him to Goodwood Kartways, where he reluctantly promised to do one lap and head home. But when Austin finished his first lap he kept going and when his racing group was supposed to get off the course Austin continued racing.
Jason said, “I had to do the walk of shame in front of 100 parents or so and make him stop on the straightaway. I remember standing there looking at him in disgust for not listening, and being frustrated and angry. I was going to yell at him and make him feel how I felt. Then I saw the biggest smile inside of his helmet, and it was right then and there that we found something he loved to do.”
Initially, Jason thought Austin just enjoyed going fast, but he has now learned, his sons enjoyment of go karting also has a lot to do with the tight equipment he wears.
Jason said, Austin’s racing uniform is tight, the helmet he wears is tight, and the seat inside of his go-kart is tight, which can be helpful for someone with autism.
“It’s very calming for somebody with anxiety and autism. Compression therapy is a well-known soothing aspect to help somebody with autism, when they are going through anxiety issues, and when go-karting, or just sitting in the go-kart [it] really helps Austin calm down and be more comfortable,” Jason said.
He added, Austin has ADHD as well as autism, so his brain craves a fast flow of information, making him more comfortable with high speeds when he races.
“He needs stimulation and needs it at a rapid rate.” Jason said, “What you and I feel would be insanely fast and hard to control, for Austin, that’s life at a normal speed for him.”
Speed certainly helps Austin feel comfortable when go karting but the structure around racing has also helped him feel more comfortable with his anxiety.
“Motorsports work really well for kids with autism, because there is a schedule on a race day, they know how long the race is going to be, they know where the race is going to be, and they know when they’re going to be in the race,” Jason said. “But it also has a lot of uncertainty because you don’t know what’s going to happen in the race, and for Austin it has taught him coping skills he never would have had.”
Jason encourages parents of children with autism to find one thing they truly enjoy, for Austin it’s racing, but it could be anything, be it mathematics or a physical sport.
“We’ve had a lot of success with motorsports, motorsports work with Austin, but, what we try to encourage other parents to do is, find the one thing those kids love to do and then use that to encourage the kids to do other things,” Jason said.
Through Racing With Autism, Austin pushes other kids to follow their dreams, and find what truly makes them happy.
“Our whole message is, whether the kid has autism or not, is we try to teach children to follow their dreams. That’s exactly what Austin’s done and his life really didn’t really change until he stopped listening to other people saying he couldn’t do something, and started believing himself.”
Anyone interested in learning more about Racing With Autism and Austin’s journey can visit https://www.racingwithautism.com/.
Jason said, “If you find something your passionate about and work tirelessly at it, you will be successful in life.”