Volleyball player with autism setting up her team for success

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WALKER COUNTY, Ala (WIAT) — A nine-year-old girl from Oakman is overcoming obstacles from Autism Spectrum Disorder and is part of a volleyball team.

Grey Brown is the only player on her volleyball team with special needs and is keeping up with everyone else. Grey has been playing volleyball with Oakman’s park and recreation team going on two years. She was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age two. Her mother Sloan Sides says the journey getting to where she is today was not easy.

“The first practice, we had a meltdown. Gyms are very, very, very scary place for people with autism,” said Sides. “They’re loud, they’re busy and we had a very bad moment.”

Sides has been working with Grey for years to improve her social skills

“Grey has problems with transitioning. For the longest time, we couldn’t walk through a door,” said Sides. “Changes in texture, loud noises, crowds, people, everything. She’s had severe allotment.”

Grey has made great strides with the support of her family and community.

“We started with, ‘Living the Dream’ in Jasper which is an exclusive sports program for all abilities,” said Sides. “That gave us socialization and the ability to follow all of the rules and understand the game.”

Oakman Mayor, Cory Franks, says it is important Grey feel like every other child on the team.

“We just started Park and Rec last year. Grey came out to play. Understanding the circumstances, I think it’s important that all the kids come out and be apart of Park and Rec. just like all the other kids. I just wanted her to come in and be able to be apart of that. Regardless of her circumstances, I think it’s important for the other kids to interact with kids that are under those circumstances to let them see that these kids are just like them. And it just helps them, not only with park and rec but inside the school setting as well.”

Now Grey is serving the ball over the net and has a message for others.

“Be happy. Be strong. And be brave,” said Grey.

Her mother could not be more proud.

“It makes me so proud as a parent. You’re proud of all your kids. And for them to accomplish something that nobody says they’re ever going to be able to accomplish. Like your kid will never be able to do these things, and then we’re doing it, and we’re just a normal kid,” said Sides.

To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, click here.


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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.

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