Alabama 9-Year-Old with Autism Overcomes Challenges to Join Parks and Rec Volleyball Team

Grey Brown, a 9-year-old girl with autism from Oakman, Alabama, was diagnosed with the condition at age two. Now, she has overcome her challenges to play volleyball for Oakman’s park and recreation team. According to a report this month, Grey is the only member of the team with special needs but is having no difficulty keeping pace with her teammates.

Grey’s mother, Sloan Sides, said her daughter has made substantial progress in overcoming social, sensory, and behavioral challenges to get where she is today.

“The first practice, we had a meltdown,” Sides was quoted as saying by Wrgm. “Gyms are very, very, very scary place for people with autism. They’re loud, they’re busy and we had a very bad moment.” She added that, like many on the autistic spectrum, Grey was often overwhelmed by changes in texture, crowds, and loud noises.

Sides said her daughter’s social skills improved thanks to “Living the Dream,” an exclusive sports program for people of all abilities.

“That gave us socialization and the ability to follow all of the rules and understand the game,” Sides said.

Corey Franks, the mayor of Oakman, emphasized the importance of ensuring that all children on the Parks and Rec volleyball team feel accepted.

“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,” Franks said. “I just wanted her [Grey] 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.”

As for herself, Grey says her message is “Be happy. Be strong. And be brave.”

Sides said her daughter’s achievements make her “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.”

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