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NASCAR's first openly autistic NASCAR driver Armani Williams is fueling inclusivity and awareness

Diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Armani Williams persisted and paved his way forward to achieve his dream of driving a racecar.

NASCAR's first openly autistic NASCAR driver Armani Williams is fueling inclusivity and awareness
Cover Image Source: Instagram/@armaniwilliamsracing

Parents of special needs children have a constant fear of what their child will become and how they will cope with the world around them. Whether it's school or work, special needs children often remain secluded and their unique talents go unrecognized. However, that is changing and a triumphant evidence of the same is 23-year-old Armani Williams.

Having been diagnosed with autism at the age of two, his parents wondered if he’d ever cope and manage in the world, reports CNN. Today, he stands as the first autistic NASCAR driver and his parents couldn’t be prouder. According to Autism Speaks, autism spectrum disorder "refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication."


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Armani Williams (@armaniwilliamsracing)


 

His father, Del Williams, said: “Armani could say ‘Mom’, he could say ‘Dad’, but he didn’t say much else. You start immediately thinking about their growth, their development. Would he be able to ride a bicycle? Would he ever be able to go to college, live independently?” While all these questions raced through their minds, Armani had better things in store. Autistic children are known to have hypersensitivity to their surroundings and hyperfocus on details. For Armani, this trait has today become an asset that helps him perform brilliantly on the tracks. 


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Armani Williams (@armaniwilliamsracing)


 

Things took a high lift when Armani’s parents supported him and sent him for a course that taught autistic kids to ride a bike. Mr. Williams said, “By the end of the first day, Armani was able to ride the bike without any training support or any balance support.” After this, Armani only got better with his driving.

The 22-year-old expressed that he discovered his love for driving at an amusement park. He said, “They would have a go-kart attraction. After we rode around it for the first time, I wanted to keep going on it multiple times, like again and again.” His parents recognized his newly budding passion and decided to ignite the same.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Armani Williams (@armaniwilliamsracing)


 

He then began watching NASCAR races and collecting matchbox cars. “It amazed me how fast those cars were going; I’d never seen speed quite like this,” said Armani. From go-karting competitively at the age of eight to mini-racing, Armani kept moving forward towards his dream. “Every driver has focus, but because I have autism, I have a laser-like focus. You almost have to be the car,” he explained.

Armani competed in the ARCA Menards Truck Pro Series, a semi-pro league, at the age of 16. There he became the highest-finishing Black driver in both the series. That’s where his fate shined on him and NASCAR noticed him. He was invited to the NASCAR drivers diversity program and his exceptional skills deemed him fit to compete in the next championship. 


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Armani Williams (@armaniwilliamsracing)


 

In 2021, he made his debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and finished 21st. He said, “I wanted to prove to everyone that, you know, autism can be a strength, not a weakness.” And that’s just what he did. After fulfilling his dream, he went on to fuel the dreams of youngsters like him. “I wanted to take that role in providing a lot of hope and inspiration for people in the autism community,” he said.

The professional driver is also studying at Oakland University pursuing a mechanical engineering degree to help autistic kids with advanced future race cars. He is an inspiring icon for the parents of special needs children. Your child has a gift and in due time, it will shine. All you have to do is keep the spark burning. As for others, push forward like Armani because no dream is too small or too big!


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Armani Williams (@armaniwilliamsracing)


 

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