Irish and NCAA Fight for Autism Awareness

To the disappointment of Fighting Irish basketball fans, Notre Dame lost to the Duke Blue Devils 90-60 last weekend. However, both teams, along with many other NCAA participants, scored an even greater victory during last weekend’s college basketball games. The first weekend of February marked the 2nd Annual Autism Speaks Awareness Weekend and the Coaches Powering Forward for Autism initiative.

The Coaches Powering Forward for Autism program benefits Autism Speaks, a leading organization in the advocacy of autism awareness and research. It was started last year by college basketball coaches Pat Skerry, at Towson University, and Tom Herrion, at Georgia Tech. Both coaches have sons with autism and wanted to raise awareness and support for those with autism and their families. This year, 238 teams and coaches, including fifteen women's teams, participated in the initiative that weekend, including Notre Dame’s Coach Mike Brey and Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski, who participated this year and last year. Several officials and broadcasters also participated in the Power Forward for Autism initiative.

Every first weekend of February, during the NCAA men's basketball games, participating coaches wear puzzle piece pins to show their support for the autistic community. The puzzle piece is a symbol of the complexity of autism. Also, anyone who wants to participate can donate to Autism Speaks under their favorite coach or school. The goal this year is for every participating school to raise $6,800, a number symbolic of the statistic that one out of sixty-eight children is diagnosed with autism. Donations will go to Autism Speaks’s research in causes and treatments of autism.

Autism, or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a group of complex developmental disorders characterized by difficulty in social interaction, verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. It can also be associated with intellectual disability, difficulty with motor coordination or physical health problems, mainly gastrointestinal disorders. Savant-like behavior or skills can also be associated with autism, such as proficiency in math, art, music, and visual skills. ASD is called a spectrum disorder because autism’s symptoms and effects on a person fall under a wide range, from very mild to very severe. Every person with autism is unique; no two individuals with autism exhibit the same autistic traits or fall on the exact same “place” on the spectrum.

Because autism is so prevalent, it is important to advocators of the autistic community that everyone understand what autism is and what it isn’t (avoiding hurtful misconceptions or stigmas), show love, respect and support to the autistic community, and donate to research in causes and treatments for autism.

So far, the Notre Dame/Coach Brey team has raised $1,100, making it the third ranking team in donations as of February 12. There is still time to donate to the Coaches Powering Forward for Autism initiative. Go to the website and donate under Notre Dame_Coach Brey.

 

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Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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