This mother is on a mission to help destigmatize autism within the Black community.
Despite realizing that her son Jayce was experiencing developmental delays at a young age, Deidre Price said that she was not fully aware he may be affected by autism spectrum disorder until it was brought to her attention by a stranger online.
“It was right around his second birthday when some of the signs started showing, and it was brought to my attention because I actually had no information at all about what autism was,” Price told REVOLT. “I didn’t know anything, so when it was brought to my attention, I started researching it, and it was then that I knew for sure that there was something there with him, so we got him into early intervention services.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), autism spectrum disorder, which is also referred to as just autism, “constitutes a diverse group of conditions related to the development of the brain.” Furthermore, while most characteristics may be detected in early childhood, a diagnosis often doesn’t come until much later. “It took us all the way from February until November before Jayce was able to actually have a diagnosis because there’s a long waiting list and all that type of stuff,” Price explained. “Everything is a process.”
Rather than waiting for a diagnosis, Price revealed that as soon as she was made aware of the signs, she immediately placed her son into an aggressive therapy schedule. It included speech as well as developmental and occupational therapy to ensure Jayce had the resources needed to not only help him regulate himself, but to also assist him with moving forward in the developmental process as he had experienced delays.
After educating herself in the field, Price felt that it was imperative to share her son’s story to help anyone else who may be experiencing something similar. It was then that Jayce’s Journey Inc. was formed.
According to the organization’s website, its mission is to “support children and individuals in the nuclear family diagnosed with autism and/or developmental delays by raising awareness, providing early intervention services in addition to educational and financial resources.”
“People would tell me all the time, ‘He doesn’t look like he has autism, are you sure? He’s gonna be OK, it’s fine. He’s gonna grow out of it.’ As if that would make me feel better,” said Price. “But really, it was an insult, you know what I mean? It was really speaking out of their ignorance because he’s not going to grow out of it. He’ll grow out of some of his struggles. He’ll grow out of his delays and stuff, for sure, but he is always going to have autism… and that’s OK.”
What’s more is that Price didn’t want to live in the closet when it came to her son’s diagnosis.
“I wanted people just to understand him, and I wanted them to come into his world instead of trying to make him come into theirs,” she continued. “So it was just really important for me to educate the people that were around me about the things that I was learning, so that they would be sensitive to him. They would understand why he does certain things instead of all of the ignorance that I was seeing.”
When it comes to the Black community’s stance on autism, Price shared that she believes one of the biggest misconceptions people have around the diagnosis is the assumption that someone having special needs means they are not as smart. “I think they just equate that because it’s a special need or a disability that this means they are not as smart as a neurotypical person or child, but actually that’s the opposite,” Price expressed. “Their brains just work differently. So a lot of times, they’re really, really smart, like smarter than we could ever comprehend. Our brains will never be able to work the way that their brains do.”
She continued, “Just because there’s a delay at a certain age doesn’t mean it’ll always be that way. And so I think that just thinking they’re not as smart, and as gifted and talented as they are, I think that’s another reason why I really wanted to amplify my son’s journey.”
Recently, Jayce’s Journey held its annual Sneaker Ball to not only increase awareness for children and adults with autism, but to also raise money for resources that are not always readily available to them. As an entrepreneur, Price has access to a vast network thanks to her lifestyle agency, which conducts private events across Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. She told REVOLT throwing this event for a second year in a row was everything she’d hoped for and then some.
“The event was beautiful,” she shared. “We had a great turnout. It was such a great event. I think that the speakers were received really well and it was such a great cause. Not only was it informative, but I think, moving forward, it’ll be something that people actually will look forward to coming out to support. The more people that are involved, the more we can raise awareness around the cause to benefit the kids and their families.”
This year’s Sneaker Ball was also held during the anniversary of what Price calls her and Jayce’s “coming out” moment. “I was terrified when I first, say, came out, right? This was last year, and so we’ve been out for a year and I was so scared because, you know, I was just worried about all of the mean things people may say,” she explained. “In my mind, I thought, ‘If anybody says anything negative, whether it’s from a real social media account or a fake one, I’m gonna lose it.’ I was really scared of that, but we didn’t get any of that. I mean, not one negative thing was said; instead, we were met with an outpour of love and support.”
When it’s all said and done, Deidre Price’s overall goal is to break the stigma associated with autism.
“I just want to be able to say, ‘OK, we were able to support each other at a high level.’ We were really able to build a platform where we advocated loud, and people heard and understood it, and we were able to break a lot of those sigmas. I want to look back and say, ‘OK, people understand autism, so now the world is a little bit different for our babies because of the work we did.'”