‘Autism Reality Experience’ helps people understand what it’s like to live with autism – Toronto

Trying to understand what someone with autism is going through is extremely difficult unless you are on the spectrum yourself.

But there is hope for those on the autism spectrum and others trying to understand and offer support for those living with autism. Major advances are being made to not only help treat autism, but to understand what it is and convey how teachers, caregivers and parents can better meet the needs of people with autism.

One of these advances is a high-tech intervention called the Autism Reality Experience (ARE), a mobile unit that provides a realistic experience of what it is like to have autism.

The technology was developed over the last three years in the U.K. by a company called Training to Care.

“They’ve vetted it with many people on the spectrum and they have refined it to what we have here today. It is going to be so important bring this into people’s lives because it is going to give them a completely new perspective,” said Shane Riley, a promoter of the technology and cousin of Austin Riley, a go cart racing sensation and licensed race car driver who has autism.

“People working with people on the spectrum with basically outdated information or perception they really cannot grasp onto until they experience it for themselves, they are constantly trying to help someone without understanding where it is they are coming from.”

Shane is licensed to bring ARE to Canada as part of the Racing With Autism tour. The tour was the brainchild of Austin, the first licensed race car driver with autism in North America, and his father Jason.

Racing with Autism is dedicated to raising awareness about autism and breaking down barriers and stereotypes associated with it. For the past few years, Austin and his have traveled across Canada, the U.S., Australia, and the U.K., educating students, teachers, and caregivers about autism by sharing Austin’s story.

They have now partnered with Training to Care to share their technology with 23 schools across Canada on a month-long tour from April 3-27.

The way the demo works is the individual goes through a video demonstration that taps into one’s emotional and physical sensory systems. Individuals are asked to wear gloves and head phones, watch a video, and then perform a number of tasks after the video is over. They cannot ask any questions or ask for assistance. “Noises, lights, and overwhelming reactions” is how Austin describes it.

Shane says the experience is overwhelming.

“Just to put this into perspective, I went through this experience myself for the first time a year ago while we were touring the U.K. I have worked with Austin his entire life. I have been exposed to him ever since he has been born, so 18 years. I came out [of] this experience, I did not listen to the debrief and I did not talk to anyone afterwards because I was so emotional, walked out of here, found Austin, gave him a huge hug and apologized for how hard I had been on him because I did not understand where he was coming from,” he said.

Austin tells Global News that ARE is something everyone should try.

“It’s a very important thing to know because a lot of people should know how to deal with someone with autism. If they are not going to know about autism, then they are not going to know how to deal with that person,” he said.

During the 30-day Canada tour, Austin, his father Jason, and cousin Shane will be doing presentations in schools, before giving teachers and caregivers a chance to go through the demonstration to help them better understand the difficulties that people with autism face every day, so that they can change their teaching and caregiving methods accordingly to better meet their needs.

When the trio return, they plans to make the Autism Reality Experience available to other schools and at events to continue to spread awareness and education about autism.

The experience of educating others about autism has been an amazing one for Austin. It has not only helped others, but he has benefited as well through his racing.

Being the first licensed race car driver in North America has been on Austin’s mind since he began go cart racing.

Austin is now living it. After he returns from the Canada tour with ARE, he has been invited to Bristol Motor Speedway to act as grand marshall, and then it’s off to Quebec to train for his first race in May.

As he has been breaking down barriers around autism, it has also allowed him to live out his dream and drive forward.

“It’s amazing on so many different levels. It is amazing for him on his personal achievements, because he has done nothing but dream of that and he has gone through his entire life of people telling him he will never achieve it,” cousin Shane said.

“And he just stopped listening to everybody and went and just did it. He is inspiring so many kids around the world – just because I am different, just because I have a little bit of a disability, just because I don’t fit in, doesn’t mean I cannot achieve amazing things in my life. Everybody has an amazing potential. It’s just getting them the confidence they need to achieve that. That is where this experience comes in because now we are going into the educators, we are going to be going to parents, we are going to be going to the people who really have an impression on these children, and we are going to be giving them tools to empower them as oppose to limit them.”

Austin said that this is “like the best achievement I think I ever had in racing.”

The 2018 schedule:

April 3 Victoria, BC
April 5-7 Calgary, AB
April 8-10 Edmonton, AB
April 11 Fort McMurray, AB
April 13 Yorkton, SK
April 14-16 Winnipeg, MB
April 17 Thunder Bay, ON
April 19 Sudbury, ON
April 20-21 Toronto, ON
April 22-24 Kingston, ON
April 25 Moncton, NB
April 26 Halifax, NS
April 27 Charlottetown, PEI



© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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