NBA star, former Lobo Tony Snell sheds light on adults with autism

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Beloved Lobo turned NBA star Tony Snell just opened up about getting diagnosed with autism as an adult.

Snell helped lead the Lobos to consecutive Mountain West titles in 2011-12 and 2012-13. That propelled him to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

In 2021, Snell became the first player in history to shoot at least 50% from the field, 50% from beyond the arc and be perfect with his free throws through an entire season.

After Snell’s 18-month-old son was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, he began noticing signs of it in himself.

“I thought, ‘Y’know? If he’s diagnosed with it, then I think I am too,’ so that gave me the courage to go get a check-up,” he said.

Then, after doctors screened Snell, he also received an ASD diagnosis.

“It was relief. Like, this is why I am the way I am. It made my whole life, like everything about my life, made so much sense. It was like clarity, like putting some 3D glasses on,” Snell said.

The moment changed Snell’s life. However, he believes it could’ve hurt him if doctors diagnosed him earlier in life.

“I’d have probably limited in the stuff I could do with it. I don’t think I could’ve been in the NBA. Back then it was like, ‘What is autism?’ They’d have probably put a limit or cap on my abilities,” he said.

Snell isn’t alone. While rare, doctors diagnose adults with ASD each year – and resources are available.

Among UNMH’s resources for adults with ASD is the New Mexico Center for Self Advocacy in Albuquerque. The program empowers people with autism. They also create awareness for issues and help people speak up and take control.

All of that helps – when speaking up can be tough.

“Some people are nervous to open up. People got lots of stuff going on individually and it’s hard to open up to things people might not know about,” Snell said.

The CDC says around 31,000 New Mexico adults are on the autism spectrum. If you’d like to access UNMH’s list of resources for adults with ASD, click here.