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Raising Awareness of Autism

School of Medicine autism research highlighted at Tufts basketball game

The autism awareness effort that Pat Skerry, A92, AG95, started as head coach of men's basketball at Towson University has quickly evolved into a national event supported by his peers. Coaches and basketball teams take time at regularly scheduled games to bring greater notice to autism and to raise research funds in support of this condition that affects 1 in 68 U.S. children.

It's an issue that strikes home for Skerry, whose five-year-old son, Owen, is on the autism spectrum. On February 7 of this year, Coaches Powering Forward for Autism involved teams across the country, including Tufts University's Jumbos. At its game, the undergraduate basketball team highlighted the work of the School of Medicine, home to one of the nation's top-ranked neuroscience departments. Investigators from the department, including Philip Haydon, the Annetta and Gustav Grisard Professor of Neuroscience and department chair, were introduced at halftime, while fans made donations to support the school's research.

"I am thrilled that autism research is a priority at Tufts, my alma mater," Skerry says. "Research like what is done at Tufts is so important in determining what causes autism."

Tufts basketball coach Bob Sheldon is proud of his former point guard and assistant coach. "When I heard what Pat was doing, I wrote him and said I was so happy he was a part of the Tufts family," he says. "I'm not surprised he's trying to change things. He's always been a go-getter and hard worker. It was important for us to be a part of this because it's a big part of Tufts research. But it's also because of Pat. He puts a face on the cause and brings it home to my players."