“Adam became mute. He wouldn’t talk. He didn’t want to leave the house. He used to curl up in a ball in the footwell of the car so that nobody could see him.”
15-year-old up-and-coming racing driver Adam Parker, from Heywood, started secondary school at 11 like any other child, putting on his school uniform and his backpack and heading off for his first year in a completely new world.
Adam is not like just any other child, being diagnosed with high functioning autism at a young age. He struggles with crowds and loud noises.
But a normal school life did not last long, Adam not being accepted into any friendship groups and was soon bullied for being different.
In what would be his last day at school, Adam was beaten up by five students, who shouted at him and kicked him.
After this, something in Adam changed.
“He’d go to the extent of putting a balaclava over his face, a hat on his head and a coat zipped up so all you could see was his eyes,” said his mother, Maxine. “He didn’t want anyone to see him. He felt safer.”
Maxine, and Adam’s father, Andrew, were forced to home school Adam for the next few weeks, Adam being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Although no physical scars were present, the emotional damage remained.
Eventually, the family attended an event aimed at raising money to treat a family member’s medical condition. The event included an auction with Andrew being asked to be an auctioneer.
“It was a bit of a joke,” Andrew recalled. “I ended up stood in front of a room full of people and my family were bidding on these tickets. I was trying to get other people to bid, because I knew that it would be me paying for it!”
One of the items was a VIP go-karting pass, which the family promptly bid on. Adam was intrigued by the karting, and the family soon found themselves at Rochdale, both concern and hope on their minds.
“It was like a lightbulb moment,” Maxine said. “He just took to it. He fitted in. He was happy. Not only was he happy, but he was really good at it.
“That enabled him to start going from the reclusive person that he’d become, and helped him to become more confident with others. He wonders off and does his own thing. He’s just happier.”
Since then, Adam and his family have pushed to go full-time in racing. He finished 11th in the National Karting Championship in 2020, and has since spent two years in the Junior Saloon Car Championship.
“Our single goal at the start was not to be last,” Andrew said with a smile on his face. “And we got to our first race, and we weren’t last. We were over the moon.
“We went from being the team that everyone felt sorry for, and people would tell us how to set the car up and help us out. As time went on, people were less helpful because we started beating them. They started coming to us.”
Adam is set to go into his first adult racing series, and will be the youngest driver the Civic Type R Championship has ever seen.
Adam’s father added: “We’re going to rock up with a 16-year-old autistic kid and a second-hand car we’ve bought, and we’re going to try and compete with them. It’s bonkers! Who’d have thought that was a good idea?”