Many of us understand the importance of travel, meeting people around the world and learning from outside cultures, but even we wouldn’t have realised the impact it could have on a developing child.

James, the Sydney-based father of Sam, a 14-year-old boy with autism, decided to go against doctor recommendations when he booked them both on a six-month backpacking trip around Africa.

Although experts claim that children with autism prefer order and routine, James saw an opportunity to try something a little unconventional in the hopes it would assist with his son’s development.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 12.08.52 PM

In an episode of Australian Story on ABC TV, James explained that although his son is a mathematics genius, a skilled pianist and a young computer re-programer, he lacks the social skills required to live an independent life.

“He can’t go to the shop and buy something by himself,” James explained. “He can’t have a normal, long conversation with a friend.”

“We want Sam to be independent. That is our endgame.”

James Best

That’s when he decided to take Sam out of his comfort zone and into a world of “chaos and unpredictability”.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 12.09.17 PM

For six months, the pair interacted with various African cultures, spoke to locals, went whitewater rafting and saw incredible wildlife.

Upon return, James realised the trip had completely changed Sam from not knowing “that when someone says something you say something back”, to having it “just happen” naturally.

“I’m more grown up after this. I’ve been learning to talk to people more often and thanks to Dad for making me more mature.”

Sam Best

Watch the video below for more of Sam’s incredible story:

Have you watched Sam’s full story on ABC TV?