Derrick Hayes gives an AUTISM Interview by asking six questions through each letter in the word AUTISM to give readers an insightful perspective from parents, experts, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the field.
Areva Martin is an award-winning attorney, best-selling author, legal commentator, talk show host, and television producer who has positioned herself as a critical voice for social justice.
Born and raised in North St. Louis, Missouri, Areva graduated from the all-girls Catholic college Rosati-Kain and went on to attend the University of Chicago, where she graduated with honors before earning a law degree from Harvard Law School.
Soon after finishing her education, Areva relocated to California and married her long-time love Ernest Martin. Together, they founded the Los Angeles-based civil rights firm, Martin & Martin, LLP. As an attorney, Areva has been involved in a number of high-profile cases and has been identified as a “Southern California Super Lawyer”. Areva has garnered an array of awards, including L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth, the Los Angeles County Women of the Year Award, Ford’s Living Legend Award, the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award, and Union Bank’s Neighborhood Hero Award.
As an advocate for social justice, children’s and women’s issues, as well as the underserved, Areva appears on various programs and talk shows.
Recognized as an advocate for autism, Areva is the author of an Amazon bestselling book, The Everyday Advocate: Standing Up for Your Child with Autism and Other Special Needs (Penguin 2010). After her son’s diagnosis with autism, Areva created Special Needs Network, Inc., California’s premier autism advocacy organization.
Having raised millions of dollars for autism and disability-related causes, Areva has played a leadership role in advocating for state and federal laws to eliminate disparities in state funding for individuals with disabilities. Areva resides in Los Angeles with her family.
A is for Awareness
When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
I first knew my son was not developing like a typical child or like his two sisters when he was around 18 months old. He was not using language; was not responding to his name, and was avoiding contact with other kids.
U is for Unique
How has this experience been unique for you and your child?
It’s been unique because I had two typical kids before my son and we had to make a total adjustment to our new reality with school meetings, medical appointments, and a range of issues. I was initially depressed and extremely anxious. Overtime, I realized my son’s autism was a blessing disguised as a disability. This allowed me to move from a place of anguish to advocacy.
T is for Tools
What tools are there now that were not there in the beginning that could help other parents?
There are online resources, more state and federal funding, and more highly trained parent mentors. Collectively, these resources make it easier to get an early diagnosis and treatment. They also remove a great deal of the stigma that has hindered families from getting the help they desperately need.
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I is for Inspire
As a parent, when you look at your child or children, what inspires you?
My son’s resilience inspires me. Despite being ostracized by his peers and having to undergo years of testing, Marty never complains. He is always happy and ready to help others. His smile lights up the room.
S is for Support
Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with and what types of support do you still need?
I struggled with guilt in the early years of my son’s diagnosis. I often wondered if I had done something to cause his disability or if I could have done something to alter his condition. I love my son dearly and have no regrets about his journey, but I sometimes think about what my son’s life would have been like if he wasn’t on the autism spectrum.
M is for Manage
What keys to success can you leave with parents so they can better manage their day to day efforts?
Get help. This is not a journey that parents should undertake on their own. There is no glory in going it alone. Parents should seek help from family members, friends, and other parents to help with tasks from housework to medical appointments.
This article was featured in Issue 112 – Understanding Diagnosis & Disorders