A father drew as much attention to himself as possible during a 50-mile charity bike ride after becoming fed-up with people’s hurtful remarks about his austistic son.
Scott Payne dressed up as colourful children’s TV character Mr Tumble, tied balloons to his bike, and blared the TV show theme tune from his front-basket speaker to raise money and awareness of autism.
The 42-year-old, from Manea, decided to take on the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) Ride for Autism after growing tired of people staring and making remarks about his nine-year-old son Alfie, who has the condition.
And he even managed to rally four of his friends for the cycling challenge, with one dressed as a jester and another as a monk.
Together the team of five cycled 50 miles from Cambridge to Thetford – and raised £1,300 for the charity.
Alfie, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, is non-verbal and struggles to communicate.
His special educational needs school taught him to communicate and express himself using Makaton, a form of sign language. This is one of the reasons that Alfie’s favourite TV show is Something Special, presented by Mr Tumble, who signs in Makaton throughout the show.
Scott and Alfie often watch Mr Tumble together, which inspired Scott to embody the character of Mr Tumble and bring an extra ‘something special’ to his Ride for Autism fundraiser.
Scott said he wanted everyone to learn more about autism and understand how much difference it can make to be empathetic to people on the autism spectrum who are struggling in public or social spaces.
He said: “I still don’t think people have enough of an understanding of autism – there are too many times that I take Alfie to the shops with me, or we go out as a family, and people start staring or judging him.
“Those kinds of looks and remarks from strangers aren’t fair – they make it feel like Alfie is doing something wrong, when he’s just being himself.
“So for this fundraiser, I thought I’d give people a chance to stare – in fact I thought I’d make it hard for them not to!
“It was quite a challenge to cycle all that way in one day, I’m 21 stone and I’ve done no training. But I just thought: I can see my boy struggling on a daily basis. If he can get through each day and get on and be the happy guy he is, then I can do this.”
Kate Donohue, head of supporter fundraising at NAS, said: “Having Scott on the Ride for Autism team was just brilliant, his energy and determination kept everyone’s spirits up, and you could always hear him coming before you saw him!
“It’s so important to raise awareness of autism, and I don’t think there’s one person who saw Scott on his bike and wasn’t curious to find out more, which is exactly what this day is all about.
“The NAS relies on people like Scott to raise public understanding and support individuals with autism to live the lives they choose, and we’re so pleased to have had his support.”