You already likely know that Sunday is Father’s Day… but did you know it’s also Autistic Pride Day? Founded in 2005 by Aspies for Freedom, it is a day created by and run by the Autistic community to celebrate all the community represents and accomplishes.
If you’re a member of the racing world, you’ve likely heard of Bobby Beevers: the founder of Autism in Racing. This initiative was started in 2020 with the goal of making horse racing accessible to all horse lovers – creating autism-friendly sensory safe spaces at the heart of big events. So what better way is there for us to join the celebration than a Q&A to find out more about a project so close to his heart?
Q. Thank you for agreeing to have this chat with us. How did the idea for Autism in Racing come about, and what inspired you to start this initiative?
It came about in the first lockdown when my daughter was diagnosed with Autism, at the time my wife said that she would like to make everything more accessible for people with Autism and that’s when I had a light bulb moment and thought that racing could do something. I had a meeting with the then Chair of the BHA, Annamarie Phelps, and then it all started. 12 months after my daughters diagnosis, I went on my own personal journey and was diagnosed with Autism too.
Q. What are the main goals and objectives of Autism in Racing, and how do you envision it making a difference in the lives of individuals with autism?
The three objectives for us are: one, to have Autism-Friendly days across the racecourse and give autistic people the chance to come racing in a safe and supportive environment. Two – Education, where we want to host workshops and help to educate the racing industry, we do have an Autism Awareness course on the Racing2Learn website. And three – employment, where if you would like a career in the sport, we want to support you with that and make sure that everything will be in place. I think these three objectives will make a huge positive for people with Autism.
Q. What challenges have you encountered while establishing Autism in Racing, and how have you overcome them?
I think the main challenge was “can this work” and will there be a need for something like this, and the answer was yes. Since we launched, the response from inside and outside of the sport has been phenomenal. The challenge now is to keep it going and make sure when we promise, we deliver for people living with Autism.
Q. Can you share any success stories or memorable experiences that highlight the positive impact Autism in Racing has had on individuals with autism?
Where do we start! To see the families attend the Autism-Friendly days and see them all enjoying a day out at the races, a lot have never been before. The feedback we receive is brilliant with them saying that they would return with Autism in Racing in situ.
Q. Is there anything in specific you wish the wider public was aware of about autism? What could people to do to support the autistic people in their lives and around them?
For me I think it’s a case of just understanding. Every Autism is different, some people react differently in certain situations to others and it’s knowing that. We see the world differently, and that’s not a bad thing.
Q. What message or advice would you like to share with other individuals or organisations interested in promoting autism inclusion?
Do it, we’re human beings and we should not be treated differently to others, we have dreams like everyone else that we would like to fulfil.
Q. You mentioned your children, Sophia and Riley. Are they fans of racing? If so, what’s been their favourite racedays they’ve attended?
Yeah they are and they’ve attended lots of racedays with me. They do like family days too and like to go on the rides. Sophia does like the Autism-Friendly days as she does like being in the mobile sensory room we provide.
Q. If you could name one main goal you have for the next coming years when it comes to Autism in Racing… what would it be?
To be a sports recognised Autism Charity.