Caleb Grace has only been on a plane twice before.

On a family holiday to France and to Scotland to take part in a swimming event.

He is about to spread his wings and make a big splash.

The autistic 20-year-old from Littlehampton is representing Great Britain in the Special Olympics in the United Arab Emirates.

The Games, a global event for athletes with intellectual disabilities, open today.

Caleb will be there, competing in the 100 metres breaststroke, 200 metres front crawl and 200 metres individual medley.

All the dedication and hard work since his talent in the pool was first spotted by a teacher when he moved to secondary school has paid off.

He will be one of seven swimmers in the 129-strong GB team up against 7,500 athletes from 190 countries all over the world.

Caleb's rise began with disabled swimming group Sussex Squids. They only trained once a month so he graduated to Littlehampton Swimming Club, where he has been a member since the age of 13.

He works full-time for construction giants Balfour Beatty, filling potholes on behalf of West Sussex Highways.

He starts early in the morning and finishes late in the afternoon, fitting in training afterwards.

Caleb said: "I was doing seven training sessions a week, but with more and more gym stuff and runs it's now four.

"It's very tiring sometimes. I wake up in the morning and think why am I doing this?"

Justification came with notification of his selection. "After the British Games in 2017 people that wanted to go for it put in an application and they chose from there," he said.

"We were waiting for quite a while, patiently for an email. I couldn't believe it. I've literally no idea what to expect."

The Argus: Mum Tansley (above right) said: "He was literally jumping around the room. It's made him very proud, he has made all of us very proud. He's worked hard for it."

Autism is defined as a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them."

Tansley is an expert on the subject. She works in a care home for people with learning disabilities and as a counsellor. Grace's brother Oliver is also autistic and a talented athlete.

The sprinter and long-jumper won four bronze medals at the National Special Olympics in Sheffield to go with Caleb's gold and two silvers.

Tansley said: "Caleb and his younger brother were diagnosed at the same time. Caleb was four and Oliver was three.

"He thrives on routine. He doesn't like it if things change too quickly. He's got a slight learning delay in certain areas, but his independence is amazing.

"He drives, he's got a full-time job, but certain areas he struggles with.

"Working full-time is hard work. It takes a toll on his body and part of his disability as well is being able to function in a job and the swimming.

"It takes a lot out of him emotionally and psychologically."

Crowdfunding, a sponsored swim, donations and support from Worthing Special Olympics raised the £2,500 Caleb needed for his trip-of-a-lifetime.

Tansley is flying out to watch him. She hopes his example inspires other parents with autistic children.

"It's about sourcing out where they can reach their potential," she said. "Sometimes you have to knock on doors and be a bit pushy.

"When Caleb joined Littlehampton Swimming Club he was the first with a disability to be in that mainstream swimming club.

"He was forging new ground and now they've got seven, all competing up to national level. It's fantastic.

"It's all about encouragement and let them lead, let them tell you what they want and what they can cope with."