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Tim Shriver and Tony Snell Speak Up for Parents of Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Tony Snell and Tim Shriver pictured with their families.

The following is an excerpt from an op-ed in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, written by Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver and professional basketball player Tony Snell:

On the surface, we may look like we walk very different paths. Tony Snell is a professional basketball player and nine-year NBA veteran. Tim Shriver is Chairman of the Special Olympics Board of Directors. Today, we're joining our voices as fathers, speaking out in defense of parents of young children with autism.

Rearing a child is one of the most demanding jobs there is. But for millions of parents of children with autism and other developmental disabilities, finding the right care at the right time can mean years of struggle, especially if you're poor or a person of color. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, the struggle is universal—and we want to change that.

For Tony, 32, his journey with autism started with his two sons, Karter, 3, and Kenzo, 2. The autism diagnoses they received last year led to a surprising diagnosis of his own, one that was somehow reassuring.

“Learning I have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) helped me understand my whole life” says Snell. “This is why I am the way I am.”

The term ASD covers a wide range of developmental difficulties. More commonly diagnosed in boys, ASD often causes delays in speaking and trouble with nonverbal communication and personal relationships, but it reveals gifts too such as defined focus, a strong sense of justice and exceptional critical thinking skills.

It's one thing to understand a condition. It's another to get help.

As Tony has seen with his two boys, early intervention matters. Special Olympics understands the urgency of early action. Since Tim joined the movement in 1996, Special Olympics has grown to use sports as the foundational cornerstone to transform all aspects of life for those with intellectual disabilities (ID). Our early childhood program, Young Athletes, brings children with and without ID together to play and grow starting in their early years. We’ve helped move the world from silence, separation, and denial to an age of powerful self-advocacy and far greater acceptance.

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