NU women's basketball team committed to autism awareness

March 16, 2014 (EVANSTON, Ill.)

When your coach and some players have personal ties to a disability like autism it creates a special bond.

Northwestern women's basketball team coach Joe McKeown says he's proud of his team.

Five years ago, he and his family moved here from Washington DC.

"My son is on the Autism spectrum and we were looking for an opportunity for him," McKeown said. "Joey is 19 years old and when we moved here he was 13. He is brilliant. He's an artist but he has obviously special needs communicative needs and needs a lot of help with."

Coach McKeown's 22-year-old daughter Meghan is a guard on the team.

"Growing up he was my best friend and we would do everything together," Meghan McKeown said.

Forward Alex Cohen's older brother Aaron is also autistic.

"Growing up with Aaron was a treat," Alex said. "He is nonverbal but we still are very close."

Alex, who is a junior, transferred here last year.

"It was really special coming to Northwestern and having the McKeown family here already starting that autism awareness game," said Alex. "They're very big advocates her family for the autism community and so are we, so you know it's kind of forms a special bond. I think that other people with sibling with autism we automatically have a connection. You know growing up, Aaron and I, we didn't necessarily get to take normal family vacations."

"In the 90s there was not a lot of information. I think the last five or six years there's been an explosion of awareness and just funding through different states. It really helps when people try to spread the word. It's very important for me for people to understand what autism is and to spread awareness."

Northwestern's Autism Awareness Chapter raised the most money among colleges in the state of Illinois. The coach also involves other sports team to take part in the autism walk that takes place at Soldier Field.

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