NEW YORK (AP) - D.J. Williams’ biggest issue with NBA games is he’d rather be playing with dad than watching him.
“He wants me the whole game, so he just wants to get out on the court,” said his father, Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams.
For many more autistic children, there are other challenges at the arena.
The music is loud and the lights are bright. The games are long, and the whole experience can be overwhelming - not to mention stressful for their parents.
Deron Williams is trying to make it more comfortable for one night, hosting 65 families affected by autism in the quieter suites at Barclays Center when the Nets play Atlanta on April 11.
“If people don’t know about the disease, it’s hard to control some of the kids,” Williams said. “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 and wife Amy adopted D.J., who turns 5 next month, while the former Jazz star was still playing in Utah. D.J. was diagnosed with autism nearly three years ago, and Williams shifted much of the focus of his Point of Hope foundation toward raising awareness and funding for research of the disorder.
An ambassador for Autism Speaks, Williams has taped a spot for NBA Cares that will run during all nationally televised games Tuesday and Wednesday, which is World Autism Awareness Day. The Empire State Building is among a number of landmarks and NBA arenas that will be lit blue that night, while Williams and the Nets are playing the Knicks at the nearby Madison Square Garden.
Williams will wear blue sneakers in April and auction them off to benefit Autism Speaks at the end of the month.
He gave away his suite for a game last season, but is seeking a bigger effort this time. He has purchased 102 tickets for the game and is trying to get more suite owners to donate.
After the game, he will visit and take photos with the families.
“It’s just another way we can give back,” Williams said. “It’s like a special night for autistic families.”
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