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Grace Payne - Special Olympics New Zealand

Grace Payne

Special Olympics New Zealand - Basketball, Powerlifting

How do you define your abilities?

I have a positive outlook of everything I do, I have good communication skills and I work well in a team. I am on a few committees and councils nationally and internationally. I’m proud I am able to do these things, despite the doubt from people who think people like us can’t do it.

What should coaches know about working with individuals with autism?

  • Some people with autism can only understand one task at a time otherwise they will get confused and not do it properly.
  • Sometimes we won’t understand a certain word or phrase so we will need the coaches to simplify stuff to help us move forward.
  • Coaches may have to talk to us a bit differently from how they would talk to others (not using ‘big’ words when talking to us).
  • Coaches should remember that not all athletes with autism are the same, we are unique. Some people may need to have a moment where they need to be alone if things get too much, make a plan of where they can go and how they could communicate that with you, etc.

What stereotypes or misunderstandings about autism most frustrate you?

A lot of people with autism don’t have physical disabilities, so people assume that we are “normal” (whatever that means) and that we don’t need the assistance or accommodations to help us succeed. Also, that people think vaccines cause autism and they don’t. And, I’m tired of hearing “Everyone is a little autistic.”

What do you most want people to understand about autism?

Autism is a spectrum, it has many forms and every person with autism is unique. For example, some people are really sensitive to light and noise but have good communication skills and eye contact. Others are vice versa or some have different combinations of these things. Not all people with autism are the same.

World Autism Awareness Day 2021


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