Kia Shine made a name for himself as a rapper and producer from Memphis. But beyond the rhymes and beats, Kia Shine, along with his wife Queen Coleman, plays a role in raising awareness in Autism.
Kia Shine and Coleman have a son who’s on the spectrum and decided to bring more attention by creating the non-profit, Autism Advocates.
With creating the nonprofit, the organization has a focus on making an impact in communities where support is most needed with an emphasis on equitable access for services and resources.
Kia Shine and Coleman recently spoke with ADW to discuss how they’re impacting lives with their non-profit.
How did you all get started with raising awareness for Autism?
Coleman: We didn’t find the cause, the cause found us. We have four children and our second son is autistic. And he’s nonspeaking. He’s 12 and was diagnosed when he was two. So for the last 10 years, this has been part of our lives and we embrace it with open arms.
Kia Shine: God chooses parents. He chose us to be our son’s mother and father. And he gave us purpose.
What are some signs that parents can look for in their children who may be on the spectrum?
Coleman: We have a list on autismadvocates.org and community resources that parents can follow. Every child is different. With our son, it was eye contact. But if they’re not meeting their milestones, you should take them to the doctor. One of the misconceptions that we talk about with Autism is that some people think it’s some sort of disease. It’s not a disease.
Kia Shine: It’s a developmental difference. So, the way they learn things, the way our son communicates is different. It may take some time to even figure it out. We found out at 2-years-old.
When it comes to Autism, we often think of it in terms of children. But there are also adults who are diagnosed as well. Can you discuss that aspect?
Coleman: A lot of times in our community, sometime you’re able to fit into standards. There are people on the spectrum that have to mask it in order to fit in. And that’s not necessarily a good thing because you’re not able to be yourself. I think that’s happened to a lot of people and we’re just getting in the space where our culture is even talking about mental health period. So now that those conversations are happening, I think it opens up the conversation to say what they’re dealing with after hiding it for so long. So I’m so glad that we’re even talking about mental health across the board, because that just opens up the conversations. And there’s no shame in not knowing what you’re dealing with, or having a diagnosis. But just accepting it where you are being able to share it and do what works best for you. And that’s a big part of what we’re doing to create solidarity within our community.
What would you advise lawmakers to do to help the Autism cause?
Kia Shine: When it comes to lawmakers, we need to be able to just streamline these programs and make them free for all of the kids. A lot of the school systems don’t have the curriculum to properly teach kids with special needs. I think it’s about really embracing organizations and nonprofits like ours that really get out here and do the work. There are millions of dollars that are allocated for special needs organizations, but a lot of the funding does not trickle down and reach kids who need it most. And that’s why my wife and I founded our non-profit, because things have to change.