Message from the President
When my son, Marty, was diagnosed with autism, I was already a busy community organizer with two growing girls, a demanding law practice, and a full range of activities in my church. I wondered how could I possibly handle another obligation, much less a life-long commitment to protect and advocate for a child with special needs.
Before long, I realized how many parents, with fewer resources than I had, were managing this illness and all of its life-altering effects, while being single parents or holding down two minimum wage jobs or raising multiple children with special needs.
As a result of my work as a special rights attorney, I became poignantly aware of the problems parents face when trying to obtain services—and even basic human rights for their special needs child. My book, The Everyday Advocate: How to Stand up for Your Child with Autism and Other Special Needs, was written to give parents and caregivers the skills they need to defend those rights.
Moreover, I learned that thousands of children with autism in disenfranchised communities of color fall between the cracks. Studies show that these children are often diagnosed later than their non-minority peers; misdiagnosed at a higher rate than their mainstream counterparts; labelled emotionally disturbed; and are often over-medicated. Many are denied insurance benefits, medical care and treatment, and because of these challenges, they are denied their fundamental right to an education and a future.
This discrimination against basic human rights compelled me to start Special Needs Network to promote social justice, equality, and dignity for children with disabilities.
Year after year, at Special Needs Network, I have met brave parents of children with autism who have refused to either give up or give in. Meeting them and witnessing their struggles has inspired me to marshal my skills as an attorney to create a community safety net where none before existed. Special Needs Network is that community, that village, where thousands of parents and caregivers of children with autism in South Los Angeles and throughout the State of California can finally have a voice.
Although there is much work to be done, President Barack Obama reminds us—“What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of obstacles, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way…” This is what the men and women that I am privileged to work with at Special Needs Network and those whom I serve with on the Board of Directors of this organization do each and every day for the most vulnerable children in our society. And for this I am grateful and filled with hope that not only my son, but the thousands of kids like him across this nation, will continue to grow, thrive, and live their best lives.
Areva Martin, Esq.