Autism teacher by day, Boston Pride hockey player by night

SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — When the “Boston Pride” won the National Women’s Hockey League title just a few weeks ago, they did it despite nearly all of their players holding down day jobs, in addition to their games on the ice.

Number eight, 23-year-old Taylor Turnquist, who plays defense, took the time to sit down with us and talk about her other full-time job: working with kids with autism at the New England Center for Children in Southborough, which she calls her true calling and the job she says she gets the most fulfillment out.

“I believe I was put on this earth to help and to teach,” Taylor said.

Taylor works in the school’s intensive program where children with significant needs like behavioral challenges spend full days learning. As if the job wasn’t challenging enough, she started it in the middle of the pandemic!

“Some of my students are non-verbal, and they have their devices [to communicate], but you know that when they’re smiling and they’re happy. It’s just so heartwarming for me, and the hard days are worth it for me when I’m able to teach them a new skill,” said Taylor.

“It takes a lot of patience, and you have to have confidence in yourself that you can handle any situation that’s going to come towards you because many of these students are unpredictable. From Day 1, Taylor has been very confident,” explained Amy Bauman, a Program Specialist at The New England Center for Children.

It’s a lot of juggling, and that also hasn’t gone unnoticed by Boston Pride GM Karilyn Pilch.

“For everything that Taylor does well on the ice, off the ice, she somehow takes it to another level, and that’s important to our team and our culture,” said Pilch.

A typical day for Taylor: up at 6:00 a.m., work until 4:00 p.m., and practice until 10:15 p.m. So she’s usually running off six hours of sleep!

But on the tough days, she says it’s her students who help her power through.

So does she think of herself more so as a Special Ed teacher or a hockey player?

“First and foremost, I see myself as a Special Ed teacher,” said Taylor, “In the hockey community, I can make a difference there, as well. I think all the players here in this league, we’re here to do the same thing, and that is: make a sustainable league for future generations and allow younger female hockey players to have something to work towards and say, ‘I want to grow up to be a pro hockey player,’” Taylor said.

April is “Autism Awareness Month.” If anyone has a suggestion for a positive autism story, they can email Heather at Heather.hegedus@boston25.com or find her on Facebook on her page “Heather Hegedus Boston 25.”