Towson University head men's basketball coach Pat Skerry and Towson women's volleyball coach Don Metil have something in common other than winning.
They both have autistic children.
The upcoming Autism Speaks Walk is of the utmost importance to their families.
Don Metil's 12-year-old son Hayden is like any other kid his age in a lot of ways.
“To see Hayden on the street or in the classroom, pretty normal kid. Gets great grades,” said Metil.
Pat Skerry's 9-year-old son Owen is the light of his life.
“He's great. He's like any... every parent loves their son,” said Skerry.
Both kids are on the autism spectrum.
“There's challenges, daily challenges with being autistic,” said Skerry. “If you know one person with autism, there's a saying you know one person with autism. Everyone's different.”
“Definitely a kid that loves to be touched, loves to be hugged. For some people on the spectrum that's atypical,” described Metil when talking about Hayden.
According to Autism Speaks an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States is on the autism spectrum. The disorder refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech an nonverbal communication.
And there are misconceptions out there.
“People on the spectrum absolutely can be productive members of society,” said Skerry. “They feel the need for friendship, socialization. I think sometimes that's mistaken.”
Bringing awareness to that point is important to Skerry and Metil.
Metil has been instrumental in moving the Autism Speaks Walk from downtown to Towson.
“That's been my goal for the past three years,” he said. “I’ve worked pretty diligently trying to get the Autism Speaks Walk here on campus.”
The walk will help raise awareness and funds for families who face life with autism.
“It costs about $60,000 for a family to get the support for a child on the autism spectrum disorder. To me that's a lot,” said Skerry. “There's a reason to bring awareness to that because it's not easy for everyone to do that. It'll be a well received walk and it'll be a great day.”
“You're going to see that excitement and that rallying around autism,” added Metil. “Our goal as a society is to just help make a potentially less safe space safer for those types of individuals, those individuals that are on the spectrum.”
WMAR-2 is a proud sponsor of The Autism Speaks Walk Baltimore.
It takes place on Sunday, October 14 at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium. The opening ceremony begins at 9:00 a.m. Following the walk, the Towson Volleyball team will play their annual autism awareness game inside SECU Arena at noon.