Attorney Areva Martin with her son
Local attorney shares how to be an autism 'Advocate'
Areva Martin offers advice, personal experience on raising an autistic child
By Evan BarnesSentinel Sports EditorBrian W. CarterSentinel Staff WriterFor Areva Martin, autism is not just a disorder--it's a personal commitment she is reminded of every time she sees her son.Autism has become the fastest rising disorder in the country but it has mostly gone under the radar in the Black community. In her book "The Everyday Advocate: Standing Up for Your Child with Autism," Martin seeks to change that by letting people know the challenges and joys of being an advocate."History shows clearly that action always requires an advocate," Martin writes in the introduction, "Advocacy makes a difference--whether on the grand stage of sweeping social change or in the everyday life of a single child."An award winning attorney and television personality, Martin goes beyond the causes of autism and looks for solutions on dealing with it by applying strategies, finding solutions and using resources to care for children.With most people still unaware how to handle autism, she says it's important for parents to take the lead and gives them a plan entitled Seven Principles of Advocacy designed to show them steps on how to handle it.The principles are as follows: Take Responsibility, Learn, Think Critically, Speak with Authority, Document, Collaborate and Educate.She speaks on the importance of getting a diagnosis, accepting the truth and becoming an advocate. Autism can be diagnosed in children as young as 3-years-old due to early warning signs. As reported in the Sentinel last week, there is a 41% increase among African-American children diagnosed with autism and children are often diagnosed 2 to 4 years later than those other races.Throughout the book, Martin lays out with detail now just how to adapt to the autistic children but how to help friends and family accept it as well. Using her own experience with her 10-year-old son Ernest, she weaves in personal accounts with lessons that she has learned along the way.It's important for parents with autistic children to have support from family and friends while understanding how each other feels about the process. Couples with special needs children also see greater strains on their relationships so communication and understanding, Martin says, is key.She highlights the importance on parents ascertaining what's best for their child in terms of treatment and therapy as well as finding the right educational system for their child's special needs. Overall, the book stresses that parents understandi the common issues of having a special needs child while also finding unique ways of handling it that suit them. As an author, Martin deftly weaves her legal expertise with simple breakdowns for the average parent to understand. She comes across not just as an expert, but a friend who wants to encourage those in similar situations.In addition to her own testimony, she shares the stories of other parents and autistic children to show how being an advocate can make an impact. She compares the fight against autism and others with disabilities as similar to those who fought in the civil rights movement in the 1960's. It's a worthy comparison as both are fighting for the simple dignity of people to be respected."By standing up as advocates, we have an opportunity to walk in their great footsteps and take part in the vital and historic struggle for human rights," Martin says in the epilogue.With autism on the rise, "The Everyday Advocate" is a helpful tool for parents in not just dealing with having an autistic child, but learning how to become fighters to make sure their child gets the best support to contribute to society.