Autism Reality Experience promotes understanding in Cornwall

Nick Seebruch
Autism Reality Experience promotes understanding in Cornwall
Shane Riley and his cousin Austin Riley shared the Autism Reality Experience with Rachel's Kids and their 100 Souls supporters (Nick Seebruch/ TC Media).

CORNWALL, Ontario – The Autism Reality Experience was in Cornwall on Wednesday, June 20 and Thursday, June 21 and were offering an opportunity to understand what life is like for those who have autism.

Rachel’s Kids House of Hope invited the Autism Reality Experience to Cornwall to present to their 100 Souls club. 100 Souls supporting Rachel’s Kids is a group of community members who donate their time and money once every three months to Rachel’s Kids.

“Our members were in awe of it,” said Rachel’s Kids Executive Director Kim Lauzon of the Autism Reality Experience. “You don’t really know until you experience it yourself through the trailer and this kind of activity was a perfect fit for the House of Hope.”

The Autism Reality Experience was started and operated by Shane Riley and his cousin Austin Riley. Austin Riley is a young kart racing champ who has autism.

Upon entering the dark trailer that houses the experience, participants are explained how autism affects a person. A person with autism experiences senses more acutely than someone who does not have autism and that includes not only the traditional five senses, but also their sense of balance and the sense of physical pressure on the body.

Shane explained that his cousin Austin for example, enjoys the sensation of physical pressure, which helps to explain his affinity for kart racing. When Austin is racing in his kart, he is in a tight racing suit, with a neck harness, helmet, and body harness. Austin is also subjected to stronger gravitational force when driving and Austin finds this extra pressure on his body relaxing, which helps him race.

In the Autism Reality Experience trailer, participants don work gloves and glasses that shift their vision. They then wear headphones and watch a video. The video contains instructions for the participants to follow after it ends, but during the video there are loud noises that overlap, and lights that almost overwhelm the vision.

At the end of the experience, the participants learn that because their senses are overloaded, it is not easy to follow the instructions they were told in the video.

Shane explains that this is why people with autism have an easier time with short, simple instructions rather than trying to work through convoluted information.

The Autism Reality Experience is not just for those with family members who have autism, but can be booked by businesses and not-for-profit organizations as well.

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