Derrick Hayes gives an AUTISM interview by asking six questions in each letter of the word AUTISM to give readers an insightful perspective from parents, experts, entrepreneurs and other business leaders in the field.
Areva Martin is an award-winning lawyer, best-selling author, legal commentator, talk show host, and television producer who has positioned herself as a critical voice for social justice.
Areva was born and raised in North St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Rosati-Kain Catholic Girls College and then attended the University of Chicago, where she graduated with honors before graduating from Harvard Law School with a law degree.
Shortly after completing her education, Areva moved to California and married her long-time love Ernest Martin. Together they founded the Los Angeles-based civil rights firm Martin & Martin, LLP. As a lawyer, Areva has been involved in a number of high profile cases and has been identified as a “Southern California Super Lawyer”. Areva has received a number of awards including L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth, Los Angeles County’s Women of the Year Award, Ford’s Living Legend Award, the James Irvine Foundation’s Leadership Award, and the Union Bank’s Neighborhood Hero Award.
As an advocate of social justice, children’s and women’s issues and the underserved, Areva appears in various programs and talk shows.
Areva is recognized as an autism advocate and author of the Amazon bestseller The Everyday Advocate: Advocating for Your Child with Autism and Other Special Needs (Penguin 2010). After her son was diagnosed with autism, Areva founded Special Needs Network, Inc., California’s leading autism organization.
Areva has raised millions of dollars on autism and disability-related causes and has played a leadership role in advocating state and federal laws to address disparities in state funding for people with disabilities. Areva lives with her family in Los Angeles.
A is for awareness
When and how did you first notice that something was different?
I first knew my son wasn’t developing like a typical child or like his two sisters when he was around 18 months old. He didn’t use language; did not respond to his name and avoided contact with other children.
U is for Unique
How was this experience unique for you and your child?
It was unique because I had two typical children before my son and we had to fully adapt to our new reality with school meetings, medical appointments and a range of topics. I was initially depressed and extremely anxious. Over time I realized that my son’s autism was a blessing disguised as a disability. This enabled me to move from a place of fear to the legal profession.
T is for tools
What tools are there now that weren’t there in the beginning that could help other parents?
There are online resources, more state and federal funding, and more trained parenting mentors. Taken together, these resources facilitate early diagnosis and treatment. They also remove much of the stigma that has prevented families from getting the help they urgently need.
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I am for Inspire
What inspires you as a parent when you look at your child or children?
My son’s resilience inspires me. Although Marty is ostracized by his colleagues and has to go through years of testing, he never complains. He is always happy and ready to help others. His smile lights up the room.
S stands for support
Are there things you are struggling with or are struggling with and what kinds of other support do you need?
In the early years of my son’s diagnosis, I struggled with feelings of guilt. I have often wondered if I did something to cause his disability or if I could have done something to change his condition. I love my son very much and have no regrets about his trip, but I sometimes think about what my son’s life would have been like if he hadn’t been on the autism spectrum.
M stands for manage
What keys to success can you leave parents with so they can better manage their daily endeavors?
Get help. This is not a trip that parents should take alone. It’s not fame to go it alone. Parents should reach out to family members, friends, and other parents for help with tasks from household chores to medical appointments.
This article was featured in Issue 112 – Understanding Diagnostics and Disorders