Tom Aspinall reveals 'hope' following family autism diagnosis

Tom Aspinall has spoken of the 'hope moving forward' after his young son was diagnosed with autism.
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The 30-year-old UFC heavyweight contender - who hails from Atherton - admits he was 'in denial at first' when one of his twin boys began to experience speech and developmental difficulties.

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But a chance meeting with TV personality Paddy McGuinness - who has just featured in a BBC documentary which touched on his own family's experience with the condition - led him to push for the diagnosis that suddenly made everything clear.

Wigan's Tom Aspinall has opened up about his young son's autism diagnosisWigan's Tom Aspinall has opened up about his young son's autism diagnosis
Wigan's Tom Aspinall has opened up about his young son's autism diagnosis
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"We'd say his name and he would not look at you or make eye contact," said Aspinall, who recently returned to the UFC ranks after a year on the sidelines following a serious knee injury.

"If you told him off, he kind of wouldn't respond.

"I always was like: 'He'll catch up. He's just not as socialised as usual because of the lockdown.' Then I watched a programme with Paddy McGuinness."

After the duo were booked onto the same programme, McGuinness - who also has three children, including twins - urged Aspinall to go looking for answers.

Twelve months down the line, Aspinall can already see huge improvements for both child and family.

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He's also determined to use his status as a huge celebrity in the world of MMA to do everything he can to help others in a similar situation.

"My kid doesn't understand making a mess and what's right and wrong, so he might get in a supermarket and start pulling stuff off the shelves," he told the BBC. "That's hard as a parent.

"Because you sometimes have people looking at you and you know they're thinking, 'will you sort your kid out?'

"If people were more aware, it would be a little bit easier.

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"Today he picked it up and pointed at what he wanted and said what he wanted. That is massive for us.

"And now when you say his name and then say 'can you give me a hug?' he'll run over and give you a hug and then go off and do whatever he's doing.

"It's absolutely massive because between the ages of two and three, he wouldn't even look at you or answer his name.

"And it just gives you hope moving forward."

Former Wigan Athletic and Republic of Ireland star James McClean revealed at the beginning of the year the journey undertaken by his own family after one of his children, daughter Willow-Ivy, was also diagnosed with autism.

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"The last four years have been life changing in the most amazing way, but also very difficult at times as her daddy watching her overcome so many obstacles in her life and learning how to manage the challenges she faces on a daily basis,” he said.

"I have debated for a while going public in sharing this as I've done this for Willow-Ivy, to let her know that I understand and that being autistic won't and should never hold her back from reaching her goals and dreams."