Sheldon Riley wearing white angle wings, holding a white mask in costume.
Share or print this story.
02 April 2024

Autistic musician Sheldon Riley, shares how an autism diagnosis helped him find his voice.

Music is an important part of many people’s lives. What makes you love your favourite song? The Leap in! Crew knows music has the power to boost our moods, help us feel relaxed and feel connected with the stories that musicians share in the lyrics and melodies of their songs.

Sheldon Riley is a musician and rising star who uses music to explore all aspects of who he is, including as an autistic person. His songs share an insight into his journey as a person with disability including experience with feelings of being different, overcoming the limitations others set for him and working to achieve his dreams.

On World Autism Awareness Day we celebrate Sheldon Riley and his story about redefining what an autism diagnosis meant for him.


How an autism diagnosis helped Sheldon find his voice.

Sheldon was first diagnosed with autism at six years old.

He shares, “I was told for a long time that I wouldn’t be able to execute myself as a normal functioning human being, to get work or have friends or have a partner.”

But Sheldon had other plans. He refused to be defined by the limitations other people set for him and instead chose to embrace his strengths.

He developed a passion for music and performance and found creative writing as a means of self-expression. In fact, one of the posts he shared on social media as a teenager became the foundation for one of his most celebrated songs.


“You run and hide the break inside

‘Til you realise that the light shines bright

Through those who broke inside”


Sheldon says, “That’s the main theme of my song. It didn’t matter how many times I was broken down and told who I couldn’t be, I remade myself into who I wanted to be.”


Being different helped Sheldon’s dream come true.

When Sheldon saw a clip of bearded lady, Conchita Wurst, the Austrian singer who won Eurovision in 2014 he saw a place where he felt he could belong. “[I thought] you’re so so different from everyone else but there is an audience for it so don’t change that.”

Now Sheldon is one of Australia’s most famous neurodiverse artists and he’s achieved his ultimate dream, to perform in Eurovision, where he was able to share his personal struggle with being different with the world through the lyrics in his song, Not The Same.


“Cause you’re told to play but you’re not the same

As the other kids playing the same games”


Stepping onto the stage.

Sheldon’s extraordinary talent first caught the attention of the world when he was a contestant on talent-based reality shows where he wowed audiences with his powerful voice and beautiful lyrics.

Sheldon’s growing list of accomplishments includes competing on The X Factor, The Voice Australia, America’s Got Talent and EuroVision. He has performed at major events alongside big names like Jimmy Barnes, Kylie and Danii Minogue, and Charli XCX.

Sheldon’s original music is available on Spotify where he has over 95,100 monthly listeners and he has been profiled by major publications including VOGUE, Billboard and Rolling Stone.

But it isn’t just Sheldon’s vocal prowess that has left a lasting impression with his fans—Sheldon is well known for his elaborate costumes and bejeweled mask that add a touch of magic and mystery to his performances.


Taking off the mask.

Although avant garde costumes and ornate masks are an important part of Sheldon’s performances, his music is a reminder for each of us to remove the masks we wear in an attempt to fit in. His music allows all of his listeners to connect with the universal experience of feeling different. Sheldon’s breakout ballad closes with a verse that echoes:


“It’s not just me who’s not the same, we’re not the same”


The success Sheldon has found as a neurodiverse artist is a shining example of the possibilities available to people with disability in the entertainment industry. He is confident that the future is rich with more opportunity for those who are willing to do the work to get there. In a post on Sheldon’s Instagram account he shares, “The world will choose difference when given the chance to see it.”

    Never miss an update – subscribe to Leap in! eNews.