Kia Shine and Queen Coleman are a married couple who were thrust by circumstances into their purpose. Shine is best known for his 2007 single, “Krispy.”
Nowadays, Shine’s focus is on his family, as he has a child with autism. It’s a condition that affects 1 in 44 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research also shows Black children are diagnosed with autism at later ages than White children. Shine and his wife believes this is because many Black families are in denial and don’t get their children checked out. Late diagnosis leads to reduced chances of Black children benefiting from early intervention measures.
During April, National Autism Awareness Month, Shine and Coleman explained what they are doing to help families.
What are you doing to observe National Autism Awareness Month?
Kia Shine: We’ve started a nonprofit because we’re autism advocates by default because our son Jameson was diagnosed with nonverbal autism. As my wife always says, when people look for their purpose or their philanthropy [they usually find it], but ours was thrown into our lap and we’ve taken the bull by the horns.
We felt like after a decade of going through the world of autism, who better to be able to represent autistic children as well parents with the struggle they go through having a child with a different ability.
We launched our website, autismadvocacy.org to be able to celebrate the spectrum and the possibilities of the spectrum. We’re impacting and creating awareness and acceptance because this is National Autism Awareness Month. So we’re getting out here and sharing the campaign with our merchandise, as well as our billboards, as well as getting the opportunity to speak on platforms like yours to be able to [put] a little color and flavor into what people may or may not know about autism.
Queen Coleman: [We want to] create [a] community. Our autism community is amazing, and there is a spectrum of possibilities. We want to create that and shine a light. We’re not keeping that in the dark.
What tips would you give Black parents whose children are autistic?
Kia Shine: We want to give tips to everybody watching, not just Black parents.
Queen Coleman: That’s true, but it definitely feels like our community is not given the resources, so my tips would be: Stand your ground, ask the questions, fight for your child, find people that can advocate for you in your community. Just ask the questions, and don’t be afraid to question people in positions of power. Anyone who has genuine intentions would be OK with that. Any doctors, people in school with genuine intentions will be like, “OK. We’ll be happy with you asking those questions.” It’s a red flag if you ask these questions, and they’re trying to shut you down, shame you or tell you that you don’t know what’s best for your child.