Pro Basketball Player Tony Snell Learns He Has Autism After Son’s Diagnosis

Tony Snell spent nine seasons in the NBA and currently plays for the G-league Maine Celtics. Known for his skills on the court, he’s now using his platform to highlight something else: autism awareness.

In a recent interview with TODAY, Snell shared that he has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This came not long after his son’s diagnosis. He and his wife Ashley explained that their then 18-month-old son Karter was not reaching important developmental milestones, like talking. He’d also been stimming, or making repetitive movements known as self-stimulating behavior, a sign of autism. This led to a doctor’s recommendation that he get tested.

When the diagnosis came through, Snell began to suspect he may also be on the spectrum.

PHOTO: YOUTUBE / TODAY

He explained, “I was always independent growing up, I’ve always been alone… I just couldn’t connect with people on the personal side of things. I’m like, if he is diagnosed, then I think I am, too… That gave me the courage to go get checked up.”

At age 31, he received the confirmation.

He said, “I was not surprised because I always felt different… It was just relief, like, oh, this why I am the way I am. It just made my whole life, everything about my life, make so much sense. It was like a clarity, like putting some 3D glasses on.”

While the diagnosis has provided clarity in his own life, he also hopes to use it to show other people on the spectrum that they can achieve their goals and do great things. In his life, that has included playing for the Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, the Portland Trail Blazers, and the New Orleans Pelicans. Throughout his time with these teams, he averaged 6.1 points per game over 601 games, starting 310 of them.

He’s now partnered with the Special Olympics to help other young people chase their athletic dreams, too. His family also launched the Tony Snell Foundation, which works toward autism awareness and acceptance and focuses largely on minorities diagnosed with autism, for whom there are disparities. Black and Hispanic/Latino children are less apt to receive an autism diagnosis than their white peers, likely due to a variety of barriers to tests and services.

Snell also has a personal goal: to be there for Karter as they figure out their diagnoses together.

To watch the whole interview with TODAY, check out the video below.

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