Nakeishia Knox is the mother of a 17-year-old son with autism. Knox holds a Master of Public Administration, which was granted by the Rutgers (Newark) School of Public Affairs and Administration. She currently serves as an advocate for autistic youth in urban areas. Knox works as a Site Director at the Consortium for Pre-College Education in Greater Newark at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Additionally, within the last 3 years, Knox has worked as a peer counselor with the now, Rutgers University Mom2Mom Program. With Mom2Mom, Knox’s main focus is on her hometown, Newark, where she tirelessly reaches out to the city’s moms with special needs to determine their needs and provide support.
In urban areas, specifically Knox’s hometown of Newark, it is extremely difficult to get the services we need and to educate the parents about developmental disabilities. There are way too many families who need assistance not only getting special needs services for their children, but to get their children diagnosed in the first place with autism (or any other developmental disability possess). Knox’s own experience with her son’s diagnosis at age 2, was nothing short of devastating. At that time, Knox had never heard the word “autism” let alone knew that it was incurable. “The developmental pediatrician told me that my son - my first and only child - had a lifelong disability and I had no idea what that meant,” she recalls. “When you first get the diagnosis, it’s overwhelming. I didn’t have family members or anyone I knew personally who had gone through this. Hence, I had to come to terms with it and push pass the grief of accepting that my son had a problem that would not just go away in time or with treatment. Then, I had to teach myself everything there was to know about autism in order to properly advocate for my son so that he would receive all the services necessary, that would provide him with the skillsets he will need to use one day in order to experience the best quality of life as an adult with ASD.
“I have gone through denial, hoping early interventions would ‘cure’ his autism, and I’ve wondered from time to time ‘What went wrong?’ “I can more than relate to any parent that has a child on the spectrum that only wants what anyone would want for their children – whether typically developing or not – we all want our children to have the opportunity to experience the best quality of life that they can possibly attain,” Knox adds. “We cannot continue to wait on ‘someone’ to make that happen for our children, but must become “the person” that will best represent them and be the voice that demands that people with ASD receive every opportunity available to them (and any opportunities that aren’t) that could enhance their life experiences. This is the most rewardingly therapeutic practice I feel you can do to move pass the pain and not be a victim of ASD, but a victor for your loved one. We have to continue to fight and diligently advocate for these individuals, who quite often have no voice at all. We must support each other within and outside of our immediate communities - we are all in this together.”