RANDOLPH, Mass. — According to the CDC, 1 in 44 children will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Families of color often struggle to find the resources they need — especially books to talk to other young people about it.
Yahira Lopez has 13-year-old twins, Yassiah and Yamir, or “Juju”.
And motivating Yamir to engage in his many therapies after his autism diagnosis was essential for the family, as was having the resources to talk about JuJu’s needs.
“‘When I was looking for books to teach my other son, his brother, about what autism looks like and what autism is in our household, we couldn’t find any books that represented us,”” says Lopez.
So Yahira wrote one.
It took 4 years, but the book inspired by her boys is now on Amazon.
“We said you know what, let’s just do it. Let’s share our story and let’s inspire more black and brown kids who look like you guys to talk about autism and bring it to the classroom and talk about what stemming looks like. Discomfort is what creates more conversations.”
And awareness is key.
Especially since kids like Juju are less likely to even receive a diagnosis.
According to the CDC, white children are 1.1 times more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder than black children, and 1.2 times more likely than Hispanic or Latinx. Now it doesn’t see like a big difference when you’re looking at those numbers, but experts in this field say it points to lack of access to healthcare and lack of access (more importantly) to services.
CDC researchers say stigma, low-income, lack of access to translation services, and non-citizenship statuses are also potential barriers.
“I think asking for help comes with a lot of stigma. When we involve systems it kind of backfires for us,” say Lopez.
Yahira says she was left to research and find resources on her own after her son’s diagnosis.
It led her to create Autism Sprinter — a nonprofit she founded to help other parents find their power after a diagnosis she says can make you feel anything but.
“Mentally it took a toll on me for some time until I decided to say, you know what? No, my son is going to talk. Or I’m going to help him talk. And what do I have to do? I’m gonna do whatever it takes. As parents, we are powerful. ”
And her book — on the shelves in the Randolph library is proof.
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