“As you all know, my daughter Willow-Ivy is autistic,” the 33-year-old Republic of Ireland international wrote on his Instagram page on Tuesday.
“The last 4 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 shared, making the disclosure during World Autism Acceptance Week.
McClean, a winger for Wigan Athletic, added that the more he and his wife learned about their daughter’s autism, the more he recognized some of her traits in himself, and so he decided to get an autistic spectrum disorder assessment.
“It’s been a bit of a journey and now having a diagnosis I feel it’s time to share it, for the week that’s in it,” 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 wont and should never hold her back from reaching her goals and dreams,” he wrote.
About one in 100 children has autism worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, which notes that the term is used to describe “a diverse group of conditions related to development of the brain” which are characterized “by some degree of difficulty with social interaction and communication.”
“Other characteristics are atypical patterns of activities and behaviours, such as difficulty with transition from one activity to another, a focus on details and unusual reactions to sensations,” the organization adds.
In a LinkedIn post, writer Jon Barbuti, who has two autistic children, said that, “James offers a reminder that autistic kids can achieve in any field.”
“There still exist cliches that autistic kids will find their way into coding, maths or some solitary pursuit. Many will, and all power to them, but all fields are open, including sport.
“And so, thanks to James, for some autistic kids the route to pursuing their own passion might be a little clearer as of tonight,” added Barbuti.