MILL CREEK, Wash. — Twelfth-grade student Sam Bowles is getting a "like" from the staff at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek.
The suddenly famous social media influencer is using his growing following on TikTok following (1.4 million as of April 2022) to raise awareness and acceptance for what Sam says “is just a word.” Autism.
April is Autism awareness month and 18-year-old Bowles says he is very happy to help break down some stereotypes about the disorder he wasn’t diagnosed with until he was 12.
“I was scared and ashamed because I thought it was bad. I didn’t even tell many of my friends until recently because there’s such a stigma around it that I was not ready to tell them, because what if people look at me differently?” Bowles said.
Bowles said his newly found social media fame is the perfect platform to show his friends and the world that autism doesn't define him.
It was almost exactly two years ago in April that he posted a video on TikTok that featured a rainbow of sidewalk chalk being washed away by a bucket of water.
"It was very satisfying to watch," Bowles laughed.
"I never expected I would be getting this much fame from pouring water on chalk," he said.
In just over six months, Bowles amassed a following of over a million fans, and his most-watched video gained over 25 million views.
The front office staff at his high school view Bowles just as highly, and have a brush with fame on a regular basis because Sam is an office assistant. Assistant Principal Bethany Stoddard said Bowles told her he didn't want autism to label him and instead wanted to use his TikTok to shrea his creative talents with kids and people around the world.
“He’s had a lot of people reach out to him and explain how great of an influence he’s been to them,” Stoddard said.
Bowles said making the school proud means a lot to him because they were by his side when he hit a million followers.
“It’s really uplifting and acknowledging there’s neurodiversity as well,” Stoddard said.
Bowles hopes he can reach even more people on TikTok and Instagram, and he said he intends to focus more on spreading awareness about autism in the future. For now, he's just playing with colorful chalk for his fans. People comment and request certain colors and characters for him to draw.
Bowles said this month is too important for him to be camera shy.
“I am learning to be proud of my autism, and I’m glad I can share my creativity with millions across the globe!” he said.