Wednesday, April 2 is recognized as World Autism Awareness Day and Nets point guard Deron Williams has been on the forefront of representing families who are impacted by the condition since he partnered with Autism Speaks in December 2012. Austism is a complex disorder that relates to brain development of varying degrees, which affects 1 in 68 American children according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For families with autistic children, common activities like seeing a movie or attending a sporting event is not always that simple. For instance, the crowds, lights, and level of noise at a typical basketball game can make the experience unpleasant for some autistic children.
“If people don’t know about the disease, it’s hard to control some of the kids,” Williams said in an Associated Press article. “There’s different levels of the spectrum and some kids are bothered by loud noise and ruckus, and so if they can get in a setting where they can kind of be away from it, it makes it a little easier and allows the parents to relax a little bit more and just allow them to enjoy it.”
Williams understands first-hand, because his adopted son D.J. was diagnosed with autism at around 18 months old. In a NY Daily News article in 2012, Williams explained his initial reaction.
“It was tough because you start thinking, ‘Is he going to have a normal life?’” Williams said. “‘Is he ever going to get married? Is he going to be able to play sports?’ It was sad, tough on us for a while.”
So for one night, April 11, Williams is giving 65 families an opportunity to enjoy a basketball game when the Nets play Atlanta at the Barclays Center. Aiming to make the conditions ideal, Williams will host these families in quiet suites. In addition, Williams will wear blue sneakers in April which he will auction off to benefit Autism Speaks at the end of the month.
Williams’ Point of Hope foundation is an extension of the focus to raise awareness and promote funding for research on autism. His foundation has also supported cancer research, scholarship funds, single mother organizations, Boys and Girls Club, and other various initiatives.