My name is Graeme Porter.
I am an apprentice aluminum joiner, race car driver, basketball coach, and former athletes’ representative on New Zealand’s Special Olympics Board. I also have a full-time job at Design Windows Nelson and I’m a proud father of two.
In the eyes of many, I’m living the dream. What they don’t see is that juggling all my interests and responsibilities while living with an intellectual disability can mean that sometimes, I overstretch myself. But I believe in giving my best in all that I do.
My daughters, Lilly-Rose and Violet, are the lights of my life! Simple joys like making breakfast for them and dropping them off at school are the highlights of my day. Sometimes, spending quality time with my family gets difficult, but we always find a way. To me, family is the most important thing in this world.
I often struggle with reading and writing, since my disability mostly affects my speech. Sometimes, I have to say one sentence five times for people to understand. I used to speak really fast. But I’ve learnt to slow down and speak clearly now.
Growing up, I got picked on and bullied in school. But that didn’t stop me from going after my passion. I always showed a flair for sport. At primary school, I played basketball, cricket, and took part in track and field. Only after I left school was I introduced to Special Olympics. Being a shy kid throughout school, I was surprised at my own capabilities and discovered a side to me that even I didn’t know. I was a leader, a public speaker, and an advocate!
Ever since High School, I dreamt of representing my country. This became reality when I was selected to attend the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai. I returned with a gold medal and decided to give back to the field of basketball, a sport that got me where I am today. Basketball taught me the biggest lesson in life, which I now often tell my students. That is – if you miss a shot, keep going; if you fall, just get back up. Because if you don’t try, you don’t succeed. So never stop trying!
Through it all, my wife Nyssa has been my pillar of support. She’s always right there, looking out for me. We have been married for 13 years. Our daughters, now aged 9 and 2, are the most important thing in both of our lives.
“What I love about Graeme is how he makes me smile with his quirky comments. He might have a disability, but it just doesn’t matter, as long as you are in love and you know there’s so much more to a person than their disability!” – Nyssa Porter, Graeme’s wife.
I’m grateful for this little world I’ve been blessed with. Life may not always be perfect, but I’m learning to be a better dad, a better human, and better athlete every single day. I’ve found that in life if you give respect to others, you get respect back. My wish is simple – just to be happy and pretty much enjoy what I do!
To be an ally and learn the stories of people with intellectual disabilities like Graeme, follow @humanraceasia and @soasiapacific.