Las Vegas Raiders safety Duron Harmon will always treasure the month of April, and not because the start of spring reminds him of when the New England Patriots selected him in the 2013 NFL Draft.
April is Autism Awareness Month, and the 31-year-old Harmon is a fierce advocate for providing support for children with autism. The longtime safety has spent recent years raising awareness for autism and supporting his nephew, Nic, who was diagnosed with autism as a toddler.
In a recent interview with Sportscasting, the three-time Super Bowl champion discussed his platform, his mission, and what advice he has for those who still use the word “autistic” as a slur to insult others.
Duron Harmon is passionate about raising awareness for autism
It doesn’t take long when talking to Harmon to truly understand how passionate he is about his role as an autism advocate. In the years since his nephew was diagnosed, the Rutgers product has made it his mission to get informed and ensure others also take it upon themselves to learn.
“It started with me just asking questions [and] trying to advocate for my nephew. And then it turned into more on a national stage of advocating, having events, and being a part of it,” Harmon recalled in a recent interview. “So it’s been a rewarding process, but it’s a process that we need to continue to work on and continue to raise awareness. … I’m even more excited about the progress that we can make in the next three or five years.”
While with the Patriots, Harmon held a karaoke night to raise awareness around autism. He also visited the Boston Higashi School, a special education school, in spring 2019.
Now, Harmon is working with the National Autism Association to, in his words, “level the playing field.” The veteran safety is eager to provide resources to the underprivileged and communities of color, where he said kids are diagnosed at a significantly later age than those who might live in suburban areas.
“Everybody’s situation is completely different; none of the cases are identical. And that’s what is so different about autism. Every case is different, every child is different, and that’s why it’s up to people like myself to raise awareness so that we can not only show people but get more resources so that the doctors, the nurses and teachers, and [the] principals and administrators can have more protocols and more procedures in place so that they can know how to deal with every child on the spectrum.”Duron Harmon
Even in 2022, people are still quick to use insensitive terms such as “autistic” or “retarded” to insult others. NASCAR star Kyle Busch was ordered to undergo sensitivity training after invoking the latter word during a rant about fellow driver Brad Keselowski last year. A quick glance at Twitter shows people casually applying those terms in conversation.
Harmon said he believes the key to leaving those terms in the past involves self-evaluation.
“We have to understand that we’re dealing with people with feelings,” Harmon said. “We would never, ever want somebody to disrespect you. … So when you see somebody with autism or some type of issue, just think of that person as a family member or a brother or sister, and how you would feel if somebody was talking to them or using the name or comparing them to something that they’re not. You know, how enraged would you be? How hurt would you be?
“So I just say, ‘Just treat people how you want to be treated and talk to them, how you want it to be treated in the world.'”
Note: Some of Harmon’s quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.