The girl with the photographic memory – Andriana Petrakis

It is well known that intellectual impairment affects people differently. For some people, it means they might struggle to remember things, but for others it can be a very different experience.

Tennis player Andriana Petrakis from Australia is one such person who is blessed with an amazing memory which, with her autism, helps her remember even the smallest details.

She remembers peoples’ names, people’s birthdays with the exact year, and registration numbers of cars, she is very good at navigation too,” said Andriana’s mother.

While Andriana’s memory retention is a gift, it can put a lot of pressure on the athlete.

“There is information everywhere around us. And because Andriana can remember things very easily, her brain gets overwhelmed from time to time with all the information she acquires from her surroundings. We started hiding magazines and newspapers from her and also limited her television time so that she doesn’t get exposed to too much information” says her mother.

Andriana was diagnosed with autism when she was twenty-two months old. This is a condition which means that people might see the world around us differently, might find it harder to communicate and find loud noise and light overwhelming. Her parents practised having eye contact with her as she was not looking at them while talking. She did a lot of occupational therapy and speech therapies. Andriana’s younger sister played tennis, which motivated her to give it a try the sport and soon fell in love with the sport. Later, she started playing tennis as an alternative to her occupational therapy.

There was not much help twenty years ago for children with Autism. We talked to many different people looking for help, took Andriana for early interventions, etc. She didn’t start talking until she was five and a half or six years; her first word was ‘bubble’” said Andriana’s mother.

“Andriana had her routine since she was a child, and it took us a while to adjust to her schedule but afterwards it was very easy for us to take care of Andriana than my other two children. She was always very positive, she keeps the family grounded.”

Talking about her positivity, Andriana’s mother told Virtus how she never gets disappointed even if she loses a match and feels proud of herself for playing well and never cries.

Andriana is also a tennis/pickleball coach with South Australia’s first disability sports organization registered with the NDIS. She trains young children with autism and learning disabilities. In 2020, Andriana won the ‘Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability Award.

Andriana is supported by Sport Inclusion Australia.