‘We were rocked’: Aussie NBA star’s shock diagnosis
Aussie NBA star Joe Ingles and his netball star wife Renae have released a powerful open letter to fans all over the world to reveal their son Jacob's autism diagnosis.
The Utah Jazz shooter and the Melbourne Vixens star revealed they have carried their beloved son's diagnosis as a secret for more than a month.
They finally opened up about their confronting family situation in an emotional open letter, published by Exclusive Insight.
In a family dynamic already juggling twin toddlers and professional athletic careers on opposite sides of the planet, the couple have been bravely honest when describing both the challenges and overwhelming joy that has come with having an autistic son.
The couple make it extremely clear in the co-written letter that the recently confirmed diagnosis has not changed their unconditional love for Jacob in any way.
That doesn't mean it's been easy for the pair, originally from Adelaide.
Jacob, 2, is the twin brother to sister Milla in the Ingles' perfect family.
According to the open letter, the couple were at a loss to explain Jacob's slower development compared to his sister, and eventually sought medical advice after months of supervision.
"There was a feeling in our gut," the couple wrote.
"Something wasn't quite right. Girls develop faster than boys, we know. Although Jacob wasn't where other kids his age were at, or supposed to be. He wasn't communicating, and wasn't showing natural signs of social interaction and development.
"We started to worry. We started to ask ourselves, our friend's, family and our paediatricians some questions.
"We have never expected Jacob to be where Milla was or is. However the lack of communication, social isolation, sleeps disturbances, light sensitivity and extremely picky food preferences gave us concern."
The couple's decision to seek guidance from a paediatrician ended up turning their lives upside down.
After hours of testing, earlier this summer they received the news they had privately always been expecting to hear from their doctor.
"Joe, Renae - we will get Jacob in to see a specialist, and they will run a series of assessments before drawing any conclusions, but there is a chance that Jacob has autism," they wrote of the doctor's preliminary diagnosis last year.
"We were rocked. We knew what autism was, I mean, we had heard of it."
They began the testing and assessment process straight away.
One of the toughest periods of their lives.
It started with speech therapy - and they immediately noticed a change in Jacob. Eye contact, verbal communication, concentration - they were connecting with their son like never before.
It's what made the enormity of the diagnosis just a little easier to embrace.
On January 8, five weeks ago, they watched their son growing and advancing like never before while he played with cars during supervised assessments.
It was a heartwarming moment that will stick with them forever - but they knew what was coming just around the corner.
"We were looking across at each other, and squeezing each others hand as he completed tasks we hadn't seen him do before," they wrote.
"He was acing this. We were so proud. Filled with optimism, we waited while the paediatrician finished the rest of the session, so she could collate and deliver the detailed report on Jacob's results.
"We knew, before it even came out of her mouth. Maybe it was the way she tilted her head, maybe it was the way she clasped her hands. Don't know - but it was at that moment we were left feeling empty.
"Our concerns had been confirmed. Were we shocked? No. So why all of a sudden were we so overwhelmed by the diagnosis? We were numb.
"So what was next? This is the moment it all hit home for us. It took a couple of weeks for the tears to stop welling up in our eyes, and to get some decent sleep again."
They are challenges the pair have kept secret during this NBA season where Ingles has played 57 games - all the while his head was spinning.
They write in the story that only a handful of teammates and staff from the Jazz and Vixens were told about the life-changing diagnosis.
The couple say they are so appreciative of all the support they have received from their franchises and claim it makes them want to work even harder to perform for their teams.
Before that can happen, however, they have to find their feet. Their diagnosis shows how much more important family and life is than the simple act of trying to put a ball in a hoop.
They are simply relieved that they are now able to tackle Jacob's situation head on.
A diagnosis at the age of 30-months is vital for them being able to help Jacob's development flourish.
That early diagnosis is the real reason for their decision to come out publicly and reveal their story.
They want other parents to know to trust their guts to get their children assessed - and for other families going through similar trials to know that they are not alone.
Most importantly, they just want to tell the world that they love their son dearly, and that their big reveal hasn't changed anything.
"Jacob is still our Jacob, always has been, always will be," they wrote.
"And this makes him even more special. He is who he is, we wouldn't change him, we all just have some challenges ahead of us.
"We don't want Jacob any other way.
"He is our perfect Jacob. And nothing will ever change that."