For those who have had a chance to read my columns in the past, you may know that I have a crazy obsession with basketball. I played basketball in high school and have been watching both professional and college basketball since I was a baby. My first internship was at CBS Sports, where I worked almost exclusively on the March Madness Tournament. I am hooked on basketball. Then a few weeks ago my love for basketball joined my passion for autism awareness when it was announced that an Autism Awareness Day in College Basketball event was happening!
On Saturday, February 1, over 80 Division I College Basketball coaches wore Autism Speaks puzzle pins to help spread awareness during their games. As an Autism Speaks employee, I landed the opportunity to cover a great deal of the event. I interviewed the two coaches that came up with the idea for the day, Pat Skerry and Tom Herrion. Both of the coaches have sons on the autism spectrum and wanted to utilize their sports platform to make a difference.
This event kicked off a monumental awareness campaign for the autism community. I was on Cloud Nine from the attention it received on television and through social media. Then two blogs were published on the Autism Speaks website that made a huge impact on me. The two blogs weren’t written by coaches, but by two young adults on the spectrum who had watched the coverage from the day’s events, Anthony Ianni and Matt Barnthouse. The blogs made me realize that the impact Autism Awareness Day in College Basketball could have towards adults with autism in college. Using sports venues for autism awareness might create more acceptance on college campuses.
I wish we could have had this around when I was in college a few years ago. Very few of the students around me had any idea what autism meant. I’m happy that because of the dedication of two coaches, Autism Awareness Day in College Basketball may become a yearly event much like World Autism Awareness Day is in April.