STARTING FROM THE BEGINNING…

The only way for us to share our story is to start from the very beginning.

There are no words to describe the unconditional love we have for our two beautiful children, Jacob and Milla. Nothing does, or will ever come before them.

Parenthood is by far the greatest challenge either of us has ever faced – a constant challenge that gives more reward than ever imaginable. We are learning each day, and continue to strive for the absolute best for our kids, and family.

We are in constant wonder as to who these little people will be and become.

Milla is the ball of energy. The organiser. She doesn’t miss a trick and keeps us on our toes, has since day one. Milla picks things up really quickly and was the first to talk of the twins. Talks too much, just like her Mum.

Jacob on the other hand, crawled first, walked first, and is the first to climb a fence and escape. He takes everything in – the world around him, with very little fuss, and very little attention for what others are doing or thinking. He is fascinating. Likes to know how and why things work. Jacob loves cars, just like his Dad.

People always say not to compare the twins – that’s a lot easier said than done. We have found it enjoyable to watch them both grow, to watch them both develop their own little personalities alongside one another. We let them go at their own speeds.

Whilst they were quickly navigating their way through their development, there was a feeling in our gut. 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.

THE DIAGNOSIS…

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.

We sat with the paediatrician for what felt like hours. We talked, and answered question after question about Jacob’s day-to-day behaviour, activities and way of life. By the conclusion of the appointment, the paediatrician had the same concerns we did.

“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.”

FINDING OUT JACOB IS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM…

We were rocked. We knew what Autism was, I mean, we had heard of it. However neither of us really knew or understood the complexity of what ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) looks like.

We were positive, and quickly agreed that we would rather go through the assessment process and find out everything was okay, than to not do anything and miss a diagnosis if we needed one.

Jacob almost immediately started weekly speech therapy and occupational therapy. Either way, we wanted to be proactive in getting him communicating to us, and interacting with his peers. We saw a change in Jacob straight away.

His non-verbal communication improved dramatically – we got eye contact within a week and started working on some different techniques to improve his social anxiety.

One of the really positive things for us was that he was loves therapy, and his therapists. A relief!

The next few weeks were a real emotional rollercoaster for both of us, and Jacob of course. We spent countless hours on the phone, setting up more appointments and completing what felt like a lifetimes worth of questionnaires and assessments.

Therapy continued, and some days could be really great (beneficial), or really awful (total waste of time).

Some days, Jacob would simply find it really difficult to understand which boxes to take or colours to press and couldn’t complete tasks he was asked to do.

As hard as the therapy sessions were, the assessments were harder. It almost felt, that after each assessment meeting, the doctors’ (and our) suspicions of autism were growing stronger and stronger.

We remained positive throughout the entire process, it was about getting some answers so that we can get Jacob the best therapy, or the best help, or the best people around him to get him to where he needs to be, or at least closer to where he needs to be.

On January 8th and the final stage of assessments, we watched over Jacob as he was completing tasks, playing with the specialist, making sounds, and lining up his cars. We were looking across at each other, and squeezing each others hand as he completed tasks we hadn’t seen him do before. 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.

Jacob is still our Jacob, always has been, always will be. 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.

‘Alright, how do we give Jacob the best chance to be as happy, and as successful as he can be?’

We had hundreds of questions. Our questions led to more questions. We were given fact sheets, websites to look through, books to read, specialists to call, therapy options to consider. So what do we do first? What’s the priority list look like? Which things do we do straightaway, which things do we wait on? What’s right? What’s wrong?

The enormity of what this was going to look like for Jacob, and us and our futures, and trying to get some boxes ticked initially that were going to help us over the next couple of weeks.

As days passed, the guilt began to creep in. Did we have Jacob and Milla too prematurely? Should we have had a different diet during pregnancy? Should we both be pursuing our careers (in different countries)? Should the kids have had a different diet? Did vaccinations cause this?

At the end of the day, none of that actually matters. None of that changes the diagnosis. It was a waste of our time, and already depleted energy.

Early intervention. That’s what matters most, and we were excited that we had found out at two-and-a-half years old, and had plenty of time to get intervention. We are glad we trusted our gut.

We would be lying if we said this hasn’t been hard. However, this is our reality and Jacob isn’t his diagnosis. He’s our Jacob and will always be our Jacob. Like any parent, we want to give both Jacob and Milla every opportunity to have a happy, healthy, and successful future.

We take the good with the bad days, and know that there will be challenges along the way. We still get emotional about it, probably because it’s a different level of exhaustion and worry to what we have ever experienced in our sporting careers or relationship.

Milla. Like us, Milla is going to learn along the way. Milla knows what makes Jacob tick, she knows how to push his buttons and she knows what makes him laugh.

She’s going to be his biggest ally. Throughout this process of going to and from therapy, assessments and appointments, we’ve made a really, really conscious effort to make sure that Milla too, gets the love, support and one-on-one time as well.

She’s smart, and already knows more than we assume she knows. We agree the best thing for Jacob in his future is being treated like Jacob – not being treated like Jacob with autism, that’s what Milla, is going to know and understand forever.

THE DAY WE TOLD THE UTAH JAZZ…

We felt it was only right to share our news with Utah Jazz coach, Quin Snyder. Not because we wanted or needed things to look any different, but because we were tired, really tired.  It was harder to turn up those first few days. Quin has been incredible. Honestly – we can’t thank him enough for how he has sought to support us in recent weeks.

He was strong in his views, that life is so much more important than throwing around a basketball. This support and understanding meant alot, and if anything it just made us want to work harder for coach.

The entire Utah Jazz organisation and also the Melbourne Vixens have been incredibly supportive during what has been a difficult time for us both. Only a handful of support staff and players, from both the Jazz and the Vixens were made aware of our situation off the court, and have been nothing short of reassuring and supportive. Incredibly refreshing.

OUR RELATIONSHIP AS HUSBAND AND WIFE…

Some days are more difficult than others, but there’s no way either of us would have been able to do this without the other. We’ve leaned on each other more in these past three- months, than any other time in our relationship. Who the strong one is changes from day-to-day.

We feel it’s important for Jacob to keep things rolling the way they have always been. This whole process has made us more resilient and stronger together. The more you learn, the more you experience, the more perspective you gain.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months. The way we’re built as athletes, you always want to be better, you always want to make improvements, and you always want to be working away to reach your goals. We’ve been doing that, but sometimes you just have to stop, and let it sink in. This doesn’t always come naturally. Especially when you just want the best for your kids, and family.

It’s hard to accept, but the best thing that we can do for Jacob, his future and our family right now is to focus on the right now. You can’t let the fear of the unknown take over or you just don’t get anything done.

WHAT THINGS LOOK LIKE RIGHT NOW..

Jacob will continue speech therapy, occupational therapy and is starting ABA (applied behaviour analysis) therapy for up to 30-hours per week in our home.

We will both continue to push the boundaries, do the best we can in our own careers and strive to teach our kids to be adaptable, resilient and passionate little people.

We are good at teamwork. Teamwork is what we know best. Teamwork is what we value and is how we function, in our careers and as a family.

OUR MESSAGE FOR EVERYONE AND OUR FUTURE FROM HERE…

There are two reasons that we are sharing our story publicly.

First and foremost, we are not after sympathy.

We don’t want Jacob any other way. He is our perfect Jacob. And nothing will ever change that. The road will look a little different for him (and us) and will have its challenges, although early intervention is key to helpful support his development and future.

As parents, you have to trust your gut. We did, and we are glad we did.

Speaking to people that have been through, and are going through what we are going through, everyone says the same thing; early intervention, and awareness. Knowledge is power.

Through early intervention, we have already seen such a big change in Jacob, and there are endless amounts of support now for kids, families and people on the spectrum. Awareness is so important, so we are spreading the word.

We all want the best for our kids, so let’s do our best to give it to them. Learning what that is and looks like is a constant process, and will change along the way.

Secondly, the situation has been hard on all of us. We don’t however shy away from hard work. We take the good days with the bad days and will continue to give both Jacob and Milla every possible opportunity to grow, learn and develop.

If you are a parent of a child who has recently been diagnosed with autism, you are not alone.

For now, we are looking forward to getting away during the All Star break, and spending some much needed time together as a family.

We want to continue to thank the Utah Jazz, The Melbourne Vixens and our close friends and family for their continued support. We are so excited for 2019 and beyond for our family.

Sincerely,

Joe & Renae Ingles