Military Special Needs Network

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Use Report on Rise in Autism to Create Change

Autistic Child Area SignIn trying to find the best in health care and education for my son Marty, who has autism, I’ve met hundreds of African-American boys and girls like him — kids who are misunderstood, marginalized and written off. To me, these kids are the faces and innocent lives behind the ever-troubling numbers: just last week, a report from the Centers for Disease Control unveiled a 30 percent increase in the number of kids with autism. Our country is now facing the eye-opening statistic that one in 68 children and one in 42 boys are impacted by autism spectrum disorders. For African-Americans, some studies suggest that number is even higher.

Make this staggering increase a wake-up call for our national policymakers, federal leaders and advocates. As citizens serving our nation and supporting our armed forces, you play a unique role and have a unique voice. Use these new statistics to let our officials know you want change. Demand that our resources improve on a nationwide basis so that military and all children across our country are diagnosed earlier, particularly African-American and Latino children, whose diagnoses often lag behind by two to four years.

Use this CDC report as your call-to-action: this autism epidemic means more kids will need more services, and yet the access to care and resources is so complex in this country that it requires a full-time effort – simply impossible for our military families and other working parents. Demand more services for autism and more availability in both urban and rural areas. Call for government increases in research to fund advancements. Early diagnosis and subsequent treatment can make a world of difference for a child on the autism spectrum.

Urge people in positions of power and influence to redouble their efforts, ask them to talk to more people, raise more money, advocate for more services and create more safety nets. With your voice and the help of our elected officials and organizations who advocate and demand change and attention, with the support of folks who lift up, change and improve the lives of kids across this county – we will get there.

Put pressure on your local, state and federal government offices: write a letter of support and share this recent CDC report; call your local newspapers and newsrooms and offer to share your story in the media. As sobering as the latest CDC statistics are, we are making progress. Through much needed funding, key legislation and sheer boots-on-the-ground advocacy, our kids are beginning to get the help they desperately need.

As a mother of a child on the autism spectrum and a children’s rights advocate, I know firsthand that our children are counting on us. Real children and real lives are behind these statistics. Letting them down is not an option. 

Areva D. Martin, Esq.

areva_headshotKnown to audiences around the country from The Dr. Phil Show, Anderson Cooper 360, Dr. Drew On Call, Nancy Grace and other national media outlets, Areva is the go-to on-camera expert on legal, political, women’s and children’s issues. A multi-award-winning Harvard-trained attorney and author, she is founder of Special Needs Network, a non-profit dedicated to the needs of underserved families raising a child with developmental disabilities. Known for her advocacy on behalf of victims and the “underdog,” as well as her straight talk on tough legal and social issues, Areva has been featured in national publications from Redbook and Parenting to Ebony. Her unique background has endeared her to audiences worldwide: despite being raised in a poor community by a single mother, she attended the nation’s top universities.

A lifelong advocate of diversity, inclusion and equity, Areva is the winner of many national and state awards including the Los Angeles County Woman of the Year Award, L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth, KCET Local Hero Award, Farmers Insurance Living Legends Award and the California Legislative Black Caucus Civil Rights Leadership Award.

Under her leadership, Special Needs Network provides services to thousands of families and is the “go-to” organization on advocacy and special needs for under-resourced populations. As president, Areva has created a cadre of innovative programs that empower parents and address issues of disparities and access to education and medical care. She’s raised millions of dollars for autism and spearheads the building of California’s first autism medical home for kids on the Martin Luther King Hospital health campus.

Her second book, The Everyday Advocate: Standing Up for Your Child with Autism and Other Special Needs (Penguin 2010), combines her personal story as a mother of an autistic child with her legal expertise, and is critically acclaimed as a comprehensive and compelling look a the special needs community and the importance of advocacy in this country. 

Areva graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago, and is the founding and managing partner at Martin & Martin, LLP. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.


One comment on “Use Report on Rise in Autism to Create Change

  1. Misty @ West KY Mom
    April 9, 2014

    do you know if the ADDM breaks down the statistics to show how many cases were diagnosed by a medical provider in a medical setting and how many caes were categorized in the IDEA category of disability for school purposes? i’m very curious about this!

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