A teenager who has autism was thrilled when TV presenter Chris Tarrant mentioned him during a recent virtual charity quiz night.
Leon Watts, who is 16 and lives with his family in Oakhurst, Swindon, is one of the young people who attend The Platform Project, a not-for-profit development programme which supports young people interested in starting their own businesses.
For some of those young people, mainstream education has not worked well for a variety of reasons.
It was only in February that Leon started at the Platform Project, and his colleagues there were fascinated and inspired by his determination to help others like him.
Leon had already established an online community under his own branding of ‘Autoism.' Mad about cars since he was three, Leon uses his love of all things on four wheels to raise awareness of autism with an aim to educate and inspire others.
He said: “When I was three, I watched Top Gear and they were doing a piece on Britain’s most hated car and it was the Austin Allegro which was jumping trucks. I just loved it.
"I’ve loved cars since then - I’m a member of Swindon Young Drivers and I’m already looking at my own car.”
Recently Leon and his mum, Debbie, took part in a charity quiz night run by Cirencester-based wealth management company St Jame’s Place (SJP). It was hosted by Chris Tarrant. Debbie sent a message to the organisers to ask if Chris could mention Leon who, at that time, was struggling with lockdown.
Debbie said: “Leon has been strong during lockdown given that he’s not been able to see his friends and he’s not been able to attend his usual car events.
"His usual routine of life – like everyone’s – has been disrupted and for someone with autism that’s so difficult to cope with. However, he did have one difficult week so I sent a message to Chris when we attended SJP’s charity quiz night. It was amazing that Chris responded to it.”
Leon’s love of cars means that he knows a great deal about most supercars, and this in-depth knowledge has made him very visible to many in the world of high-performance vehicles. This, and his sharing his journey with autism, have seen him link up with many well-known famous car lovers.
They include Neil Clifford, CEO of exclusive footwear brand Kurt Geiger, Paul Woodman & Tiff Needell from Lovecars, Guy Berryman from Coldplay and British motor racing driver Marino Franchitti.
Leon is now planning his next charity car event.
Sadie Sharp, founder of Swindon’s Platform Project said: “Leon is an inspiration to us all and we feel confident that he will have a career in that industry as his passion is so clear for all to see.
"He, and many of the young people who come to us, often need a safe space to gain their confidence and access to opportunities which work for them. We are proud to have Leon as part of our ‘family’.”
For more information about The Platform Project visit https://www.platformproject.co.uk