Austin Riley is a 3-time kart racing champion and also the first professional Canadian race-car driver with autism. You may already know Austin’s story— he’s a former CityNews ‘Athlete of the Week’.
The 18-year-old is about to enter his second season in the Nissan Micra Cup but before he does that— he wants to give Canadians an idea of what it’s like in his world through the Autism Reality Experience simulator.
“It’s very important to bring my world to other people to understand that anything is possible,” says Riley.
He and his family are hoping to use the state-of-the-art simulator to remove the stigma associated with autism.
The simulator gives you a sense of what someone with autism might go through while trying to complete every-day tasks, altering your physical and sensory abilities.
“The goal behind what we’re doing here is to teach people, go after educators and parents and give them an idea of what a child is going through,” said Shane Riley, Austin’s cousin and an advocate for autism.
According to Autism Speaks Canada, one in every 68 children in Canada are diagnosed with autism, the fastest growing and most commonly diagnosed neurological disorder in Canada.
The Riley’s came up with the idea of an awareness tour after speaking at an Autism Expo in the UK. There, they met with a company called Training 2 Care, and a partnership was formed.
“If you can put them, even for a few moments, into Austin’s world so they can gain an understanding that they wouldn’t be able to normally, then our job is done,” says Jason, Austin’s father.
For kart-racing champion himself, the goal is to not only to raise awareness and educate, but to also show the world that the only thing that makes him different is that he’s a winner, both on and off the track.
“It’s important to understand that I can race, I can drive a race car” said Riley, “Don’t think I can’t do anything when I can.”
The Autism Reality Experience will be hitting the road next Tuesday, heading to over 20 cities in Canada.
The tour starts in Victoria, BC— stopping in Toronto on April 20.