A Leyland teenager has amassed half a million followers on Instagram and raised £350,000 for autism charities in the space of a few months.Advertisement
Charlie Michael Baker’s success has come in the short time since he self-published the first of three books about autism in March this year.
16-year-old Charlie, who himself is autistic, was driven to take action after being bullied at school.
Charlie said: “I was bullied throughout my whole school life. I’ve always been over-confident and had this outgoing and expressive persona. Some people love it, a lot of people hate it. Kids saw I was different and decided to bully me.
“From day one the teachers would brush it off, and it wasn’t okay. It was a scary time.
“I was once assaulted in front of the head of safeguarding. Another time I had a fully sealed packet of post-it notes thrown at me while stood under a camera. I also received death threats on social media. School just said I should call the police.”
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After discovering he could self-publish, Charlie racked up 14,000 copies of his debut book, Charlie Baker: Autism and Me, in just a week.
Charlie promoted the book on Instagram and word spread through ADHD and autism communities, including in group chats on Twitch.
“My audience is parents,” said Charlie. “In my book it’s my life through my eyes. It helps parents identify what’s going on with their own kids and then help them.
“I had one friend who tried to unalive themselves, but their parents had no clue. No parents can really tell as kids are good at hiding it and don’t communicate. I’ve done it all my life.
“The first book was a vent, like being in multiple therapy sessions, but it was nice getting it out.”
With two more bestselling titles under this belt, Charlie has now sold around 50,000 books with copies being shipped as far afield as the UAE and USA.
Charlie said: “I thought I would sell five copies not 50,000, and never imagined I’d be in this position.
“Originally I was planning to donate 15 per cent to charity but I’d just got a job so decided to donate it all.
“The money has gone to about 100 different autistic charities worldwide, helping people who can’t work to pay for things like carers, housing and activities.”
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Charlie continued: “It gives me goosebumps even talking about it. I’ve already helped at least one person save their life and open up. My words saved somebody’s life.
“It’s unbelievable how one little thought of writing a book could help so many people across the world.”
Charlie’s success has already brought a level of fame, and he has plans to capitalise with a career in the limelight.
“When I’m out about people say ‘oh it’s that author! I can’t walk into Tesco without someone asking for a selfie.
“I’m not famous yet, but I’ve never seen myself in a nine to five job. I’d love to go on TV and continue in this career.”
As well as raising funds for charity and planning his next steps, Charlie is using his platform to encourage others to stand up to bullies.
He said: “If you’re being bullied, tell someone. Even if they don’t listen at first, tell them again and again. Make them listen, even thought it’s frustrating. Bullies have to be dealt with and one day they will be.
“Even when you’re being bullied it’s important to still be you. I’ve heard a lot about masking in the autism community but I’d encourage everyone to be authentic, and not to try to be anyone else.
“As my Uncle always says to me, be a shepherd not a sheep.”
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