Autism Speaks Coaches Powering Forward brings NCAA basketball coaches, broadcasters and fans together to increase understanding and acceptance for people with autism

National public awareness campaign invites the basketball community to show their support for a kinder world during games March 5 – 7

February 11, 2021
Autism Speaks Coaches Powering Forward

NEW YORK – NCAA Basketball coaches, teams and fans across the country will display their support for the autism community by wearing Autism Speaks puzzle-piece pins or face masks the weekend of March 5-7. The Coaches Powering Forward for Autism Speaks campaign is an annual effort to bring college basketball coaches, teams, schools, broadcasters and fans together to raise autism awareness and help create a kinder, more inclusive world for those on the spectrum.

In 2014, Coaches Pat Skerry of Towson University and Tom Herrion of the University of South Florida, both fathers of sons on the spectrum, embarked on a mission to raise autism awareness through their NCAA network by asking colleagues to wear the Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin during televised games. More than 80 coaches and broadcasters supported in that first year and since then then Coaches Powering Forward initiative has grown to include hundreds of schools (and thousands of puzzle-piece pins).   

“Each year, Coach Skerry and I are moved by the outpouring of support our colleagues show for this campaign with Autism Speaks,” said Coach Herrion. “We’re proud to see Coaches Powering Forward continue to so that more people with autism, like Coach Skerry’s son and mine, can feel supported, understood and accepted.”

“Autism Speaks Coaches Powering Forward is a unique opportunity for the NCAA basketball community and fans to rally around their favorite team, while also showing their support for people on the autism spectrum,” said Val Paradiz, vice president of services and supports at Autism Speaks. “Coach Skerry and Coach Herrion’s continued commitment to spreading a message of understanding and acceptance is truly advancing our mission and changing the world for our community. We are so grateful for their support and dedication.”

“We look forward to this weekend each year and we know the autism community needs our support now more than ever,” said Coach Skerry. “As a father of a young man on the spectrum, I’m grateful to have my fellow NCAA coaches and our loyal fans behind us to help drive Autism Speaks vision of a world where all people with autism can reach their potential, including my own son.” 

Fans can join the conversation on social media by tagging @autismspeaks and using #autismhoops and #kindnesscounts during Coaches Powering Forward weekend and throughout the season. Teams and fans are also encouraged to show their support and commitment to autism awareness by wearing their pins year-round.

Autism Speaks is committed to enhancing lives today and accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow for people with autism, and 85 cents of every dollar supports research, advocacy, programs and services.

To learn more about Autism Speaks and how you can support the mission, visit  

About autism

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, and each person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges. A combination of genetic and environmental factors influences the development of autism, and autism often is accompanied by medical issues such as GI disorders, seizures and sleep disturbances. Autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children.

About Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. To find resources, join an event or make a donation, go to Learn more by following @AutismSpeaks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.