Setting the Pace for ASD Awareness

William Buick translates his horse racing achievements into advocacy for autism, fostering awareness and support within the community.


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William and Jane Buick recognized the challenges that lay ahead when their son Thomas was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the couple also saw a unique opportunity to use their situation to inspire other families living with autism. William is one of the most successful jockeys currently riding in the United Kingdom and overseas, beginning his apprenticeship at 16 with the stable of the acclaimed trainer Andrew Balding, who later called him the best apprentice he had ever seen.

William has two consecutive British jockeys’ titles and has landed Group One victories around the world. His fame gave the family a unique platform to reach a global audience with Thomas’ story.

The reality of families living with autism

 “Thomas is a very happy, healthy child,” says William. “We have no secrets, and like all parents, we want to make sure he gets every opportunity, like any other child. The fact that he's autistic doesn't make a bit of difference to us.   I think there's still a hell of a lot to be done in terms of support for children and the parents, pretty much everywhere, and by sharing his story we hope to bring a little more attention to ASD and let other parents know they are not alone."

William Buick
William Buick son
Inspired by their son Thomas, William and Jane Buick advocate for ASD awareness.

Shortly after Thomas' diagnosis, the Buicks created a video showcasing the daily life of the then-four-year-old and his condition, which is characterized by his mostly silent demeanor.  The couple's YouTube post has garnered a response that highlights the global ASD community's receptiveness to sharing experiences and challenges.

William tells us, “To be honest, I don't think it's something that people really understand unless you are in it. I guess we've learned on the job what really makes him really makes him tick. He loves being outside, he loves looking at leaves, he loves picking at the bark of a tree. He also loves a quiet room in the house, so we made a little den room for him. It's very sensory friendly, plenty of light and cushions and pillows. I guess we've just learned to go with him, really.”

Reaching out to families of children with autism

Known as one of the most popular and personable personalities in any jockeys’ room, William didn’t hesitate to talk about his family’s experience with autism when approached by Optism.  Initially, the Buicks thought Thomas’ behavior “was just like a normal two-year-old who was slightly late to crawl, slightly late to walk.” But the family’s professionally trained nanny eventually flagged common ASD traits she saw in Thomas’ behavior.

According to William, “We began to delve deeper and as he grew, these traits got stronger. What we found was how important it was to find the right people to talk to. "

There was a lot of back and forwards and searching, but I think what we learned was you have to persevere, be proactive, and realize that you will learn on the job. Things won’t all fall into place at once.

The couple turned to the United Kingdom’s education, health and care (EHC) plan for guidance, assessment, and assistance. Thomas managed to enter a mainstream school with the assistance of a one-on-one teacher. Aside from their video about Thomas, they also share information about autism and Thomas via their social media platforms. 

“The response was overwhelming,” says William. “I was amazed at how many people reached out to us and asked us for advice about what we have done. Our situation has definitely brought me and Jane closer. She probably gets Thomas more than anybody else and to watch them together is amazing. You know, every small tick is a big one for us. You just get a little bit of a reality check. You think, right, OK, you know, this is how it is, this is what it is. Now, it's our responsibility to make the most of it. And I feel like that's what we're doing.”

The Buicks’ Advice for Parents

  • Dig deep into your research of ASD to gain an awareness of what you are dealing with and the help you need.
  • Find the right people to talk to, no matter how exhaustive the search for them might be.
  • Accept that you will learn as you go and that some days will bring more rewards than others.
  • Don’t look too far ahead or set goals that are too big.
  • Always remember that small achievements are actually big achievements.