Harrogate autism advocate using YouTube to break down barriers


Last updated Apr 1, 2022
Thomas Henley

Harrogate-based autism advocate Thomas Henley wants to use his profile as a popular podcaster and YouTuber to help other people that might be struggling with autism.

Mr Henley was diagnosed as autistic aged 10 and said his years at Rossett High School were “quite a bad experience” as he struggled with the condition and poor mental health.

Despite his difficult teenage years, he is a former Commonwealth Championship gold medalist in Taekwondo. He’s also a model for Born Anxious, a clothing line set up to support children with autism.

Mr Henley invites guests onto his YouTube channel Asperger’s Growth and his podcast Thoughty Auti Podcast to discuss topics related to autism, including dating, mental health, university and the workplace.

He said:

“The first thing I learned was the extent to which autistic people struggle in the school system. Everyone I talk to says secondary school tends to be a traumatic environment. It can cause a lot of long-term mental health conditions.”

Read more:

Today is World Autism Awareness Day, which is backed by the United Nations and aims to raise awareness about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder throughout the world.

Mr Henley said his podcast and YouTube channel have helped him have a greater appreciation for how different people feel about autism. He said some may see it as a medical condition or disability, whereas others say it has lots of benefits.

He said:

“It’s a very individual thing but we think, see, perceive feel and communicate differently. It’s been shown that’s really beneficial for some work places. 

“We are very emotionally intune, it’s a very misunderstood part of autism. The cognitive ability to notice and categorise, that’s the bit with we struggle with.

“What we don’t struggle with is when we know someone is struggling or needing support, that tends to be very, very strong.

Over the course of four or five years I worked a lot on myself. But my podcast is less about sharing my experiences and more about trying to help other autistic people.”

Mr Henley encouraged any autistic teenagers in Harrogate who might be struggling to make the most of the wealth of resources that are available online, which can help them feel like they are not alone.

“One of the best things you can do is learn more about autism from a young age.

“Follow a lot of people on Instagram and YouTube and you will learn about yourself. There are lots of resources online. For example, if you’re young, female and autistic, there is Siena Castellon’s The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide.

“It’s good to hear autistic people talking about what it’s like to being autistic.”

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