How autism has affected Towson and led to a good cause

The Tigers will raise awareness of autism Monday night, including statistics about its incidence. (Towson Athletics)

Pat Skerry never knew the numbers. Well, he was well aware of the one victory his Towson Tigers registered a year ago in his rookie season as the program's head coach. What he didn't know was that one in about 85 children have autism.

"It's even more so with boys," Skerry said.

The numbers are staggering. Studies show 1 in 55 boys are autistic. Skerry's 3-year-old son, Owen, was diagnosed with autism about a year and a half ago -- and both Skerry and his wife wanted to do something to help. So they have begun "Autism Awareness Night," which comes Monday night, when Towson hosts UNC Wilmington.

"I'm hoping it's something that maybe other programs pick up on," Skerry said. "Because I know there are other coaches in the industry that have children with autism."

"For Owen, it's more about his communication," he added. "He's a wiz with the iPad. He can do things that I can't."

Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States. There is no medical detection or cure. Autism groups -- Itineris, Pathfinders, Autism Speaks, Kennedy Krieger Institute (where Owen attends school) and the Hussman Center -- will be in attendance Monday night at Towson to provide information to fans. Under Armour has provided special royal blue (the color of autism) shoes for the players and the staff. UNCW will be wearing pins to support the cause.

"We want to help educate people earlier," Skerry said. "Both my wife and I are passionate about it."

Towson (11-12, 6-4 CAA) will host UNC Wilmington at 7 p.m. The Tigers are led by Georgetown transfer Jerrelle Benimon, who is one of just three players in the nation to have three games of 20-plus points and at least 15 rebounds.

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