His name is as his mission: “Maverick”. He walked into my life with something to say, he wanted to write a series of blogs on Aspergers101 with so much pain to overcome that readers immediately related to the pain and his message of hope. He has overcome and watching him give to others, as does the Sea of Galilee sources life giving waters to many, Maverick draws on the pain of his past to make a difference for the good! From his book, “Overcoming the Odds: My Journey to finding Personal Strength and Triumph”, to his drive to dispel the stigma of mental illness and minorities to all, you’ll be incredibly inspired (as are we) by learning more about Maverick through our Q & A segment below.
But first, among his life accomplishments, Maverick was recently selected to serve on the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities as shown in a recent story from KSAT News in San Antonio.
Q & A with Maverick Crawford III
Aspergers101: How did the opportunity to be on the board with the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities come about?
Maverick: I was told about this role form a very special friend of mines when I was a part of the Texas Partners in Policymaking class. She told me that I would be a good fit for the board, so I gave it a try and applied. I had self-doubt due to the hallucinations and voice I hear in my head due to the abuse I suffered, and they were saying “you will never get on the board, your too stupid and quite.” But I tried my best to ignore those old tapes coming from the abuser, but it was hard to do. I often doubt myself ad do not have a whole lot of confidence, self-esteem because of the trauma I suffered, which made it hard for me to apply for this position. Anyway, I filed out this intimidating application that asks for information that I did not know. They wanted to know about my social media account information, but I’m fortunate enough that I do not post anything negative or something that may hinder my chances of getting on this board. After I completed the application than three months later, I had the interview over the phone. It was an hour-long interview that again they asked me questions that I did not know the answer to them. After the intimidating interview over the phone, a month passed, and I received a call that changes the trajectory of my life. The same person who interviewed me also told me this, “Maverick, I wanted to inform you that Governor Greg Abbott approved your application and you have officially been appointed to the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities.” I had mixed emotions again from the old tapes from my abuser telling me how stupid and useless I was. The other emotions were relief and joy that the Governor of Texas appointed a reticent black male who has suffered so much and has autism. I was elated with joy that I was appointed because I never taught a person like myself would ever be appointed to such a high caliber board. I received a letter in the mail along with a certificate that states my name and the board I have been appointed to with the Governor of Texas signature on it. Then a month later, the University of Texas at San Antonio where I graduated from in 2018 and was awarded as the Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student in the College of Public Policy. UTSA posted the appointment to the board on their website and also on UTSA today. Also, in the same month, I a reporter with KSAT 12 news saw the article on UTSA today and wanted to do a television interview highlighting my accomplishments. The interview was a success, and I’m honored to have been appointed by the Governor of Texas but also having my story shared on KSAT 12 news.
When it comes to autism, we tend to assume those who are diagnosed are white. In actual fact, the rate of autism is similar for all racial groups – one in 110 according to current estimates.Maverick Crawford III
Aspergers101: What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure on the board?
On disparities in Autism diagnoses
Maverick: When it comes to autism, we tend to assume those who are diagnosed are white. In actual fact, the rate of autism is similar for all racial groups – one in 110 according to current estimates. According to several studies, African American children are diagnosed at a later age and require more prolonged and more intensive treatment as a result of this. In the white community, more children are insured, have access to treatment, which is affordable and of high quality. They also have a community that more readily embraces and understands mental illness.
In the black community, it is the complete opposite. Autism is either misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed. Another aspect of the black community is that we have a hard time accepting or understanding a mental health diagnosis, such as autism. African American families may write off mental illness as being demon-possessed or bad behavior.
I do understand that there is a lack of trust in medical professionals in the black community. However, we must take the advice of professional experts and do research to help us understand the issues with our children. In this way, we can help raise our children with disabilities much better. The reason why most autism behaviors go unreported in the black community is that we do not understand or we are not educated, or even believe in mental illness, when we do not believe in mental or neurological illness, then the children have to suffer and grow up in a family which does not fully understand their needs and parents who are unwilling to accept or learn how to deal with those issues.
Educators, doctors, and other practitioners who are experts on autism need to appreciate the gravity of misdiagnosing, under-diagnosing, or non-treatment of an autistic child. According to various research studies, black children suffer from a greater degree of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD ) due to environmental factors. The environment for most black children involves poverty, crime, lack of resources, and so forth. When it comes to autism, the people who are better off financially can get access to the best services rather than the ones who are living in poverty. The less well-off children do not have access to adequate treatment.
There is also evidence of discrimination in who is diagnosed and at what time they are diagnosed because of the lack of mental health advocates, agencies, or access to treatment. We have many cases of successful white individuals with autism, but very few success stories with minorities affected by autism. It is fundamentally about how the children were treated when they were younger. We need to be more accepting of diversity in the autism community and understand that the spectrum can be of any color, any gender, any person, any background, no matter who is being diagnosed. All of the factors discussed above can lead to significant delays in treatment and heartbreaking stories and negative experiences for autistic people in minority communities.
What I want to do
I hope to end the stigma on mental health and also the notion that people with disabilities are viewed as incapable and can’t do anything for themselves. It’s been too many years that people with disabilities have been stigmatized, ignored, and degraded by society. I want to change the trajectory of mental health in all communities because, in all communities, mental health seems invisible. As a black male in our community, some of us believes in the belt to solve the problem with their children, and we tell a child with a disability that they are either spoiled or need their butt whipped. Another element that I want to focus on is education on mental health. We are not prepared on how to deal with a child with a mental health challenge. For example, when we were all being brought into the world, our mothers had only two things on their mind whether the child will be a boy or a girl, but they never talk about if their child will have a mental health challenge or not because both of them is a 50 percent chance. Educating people on all developmental disorders in vital because more and more mothers are given birth to children with developmental disorders. Lastly, I want to change the perception of mental health and let people know that seeking treatment for mental health is not weak; it is wise. Think about it; if you get sick you go to a doctor; if you have a toothache or need a regular six months clean, you go to a dentist. If you have a stomach illness, you see a gastroenterologist; teenage girls at one point have to see an obstetrics gynecologist (OBGYN). If you have any other issue, you see the relevant professional who deals with that issue. It is the same with mental health; if you have a mental health diagnosis like autism, then you should see a psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist, or other professionals who deal with mental health. Mental illness is a core part of your health and can require you to be seen by a specialist just like any other health issue you have.
Let’s end the stigma together
Aspergers101: Tell us more about your inspiration for your book? Also, where can people purchase the book?
Maverick: I was inspired when one of my professors told me, “Maverick, we need more minority voices in the autism community”. Meaning they need those of color to express their concerns and their stories about having and living with autism because there is not very many of us. Studies on autism suggest that Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than Whites to be underdiagnosed or diagnosed late in life with autism.
The Black community does not understand mental health and neurological disorders because we do not have access to treatment in our community. We also do not report unusual behaviors in our children. We tend to write bad behavior as either bad behavior, being lazy or acting white. The reason why they are building more prisons than schools is that they observe the quote on quote “bad behavior” from minority kids and the system does not understand what minority kids have to go through.
A study points out that “Minority children suffer from a severe form of PTSD because of their environment.” So the minority children who are labeled “bad kids” like I was could be suffering from a neurological disorder like autism. Autism behaviors go unreported in the minority community because we do not understand what to look out for or what to expect. After doing research on autism and the Black community, I came up empty-handed when it came to Black and minority voices for autism. So, I looked back to the comment my professor made to me about the autism community needing more voices of diversity. I wrote this book because the autism community needs more people of color in its leadership. I want to help everyone take notice of how autism affects the Black community and a Black child.
Aspergers101: What advice do you have for any person coming to Asperger’s 101 for information on raising their child with autism spectrum disorder?
Maverick: Nobody is going to understand your child better than you, so be your child’s advocate and let your child be your heart and get people in your corner who value your kid. I believe Proverbs 4:7 says it best, “Wisdom is the prime thing. Acquire wisdom; and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding.” So, when you are conducting research and getting information, it is important that you understand what you are reading and what information you are acquiring. Also find the best help for your children because as a parent, you want the best for your child. I came up with eight steps to keep in mind about your child’s diagnoses, Accept your child diagnosis, Learn about their condition, do the research and understand, Find support groups, Find out about services, Assess your child’s strengths and challenges, Become an expert and advocate, Remain positive.
Aspergers101: What next for Maverick Crawford III?
Maverick: I’m currently in graduate school, employed, a member of state autism boards, graduated from the Texas Partners in Policymaking class, work as a volunteer advocate with Disability Rights of Texas, and recently appointed to the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities. I plan to become a motivational speaker and speak on issues such as mental health, suicide prevention, and bullying. I’m currently an Autism advocate, and I will become a social worker for people with developmental disorders. Because people with autism make impacts in the lives they come in contact with, we need to make an impact in their lives so that they can everything they put their mind to.
Final words? “Keep on pushing. Keep on striving. Keep preserving because there’s a great reward at the end of everything” – Maverick Crawford III
by: Jennifer Allen
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