By J.J. McQueen
Special to the AFRO

Donovan Webb is a high school basketball player, bowler, brother, son, and Black male with Autism. Much like every other teenager in the world, Donovan has goals and dreams. Many of which for some could be overshadowed by his disability. However, that hasn’t stopped he and his family from working towards maximizing his gifts and talents. 

A junior at Joppatowne High School, Webb is well known for his ability to knockdown the occasional three pointer when he checks into Varsity basketball games. While playing sparingly, he has shown himself to be more than an athlete. Off of the court he’s well-liked by his teachers and peers. Donovan’s success and high self-worth is largely due to his family support, and the early intervention measures taken by his parents. 

The ideal formula for high achieving young people with (ASD) Autistic Spectrum Disorder is credited to early diagnoses. A study from Washington School for Medicine in St. Louis points out the gaps in the age of diagnoses of Black children in comparison to those who are white. The study included 584 Black children at 4 different Autism centers around the United States. It found that the average age of Black children formally diagnosed wasn’t until 5 ½ years old. 

Unlike other health diagnoses, Autism has no blood type nor a general way to test for it. Doctors have to spend time studying each child’s behavior. It takes a valuable amount of time like how Dominic and Shante Webb spent monitoring their son’s development, to be sure about what direction is needed for therapy. 

Ms. Webb credits being in tune with her son’s needs at an early age to being the main reason why they were able to get the correct early intervention, support and care. 

Shante Webb, “After having had 2 children before Donovan, I knew that something was different. I could see it in his eyes that something was different.” 

Trusting her instincts, Ms. Webb began doing research on how to get more access to doctors and information that best served her son’s needs. Following tons of paperwork and doctors’ visits, the family found answers and began to form a plan for Donovan to reach his full potential.     

Many doctors and therapists around the country speak to the importance of getting early assistance for each child. 

In a 2020 article John N. Constantino, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Washington University, “In our current national conversation about race, preventable disparities in diagnosis and treatment services deserve a high priority because failure to address these disparities may seriously compromise outcomes for children affected by autism. 

Donovan’s growth doesn’t stop at home. With the assistance of programs like the ARC serving individuals with (ID) Intellectual Disabilities, continues to prove that quality support matters. 

Being the 3rd child in a family of 6, he is given responsibilities at the same level as his siblings. Although everyone in the home understands that he may have limitations, he’s treated as if the sky is the limit.  

A straight A student in the life skills program at Joppatowne High School, Donovan is on track to graduate with the Mariner class of 2023. The early contributions of specialists at Joppatowne Elementary School, and Magnolia Middle School demonstrate why having a support team can be beneficial to students like Donovan.

For families looking for advice, Ms. Webb had this to share, “Don’t be in denial if you think something is wrong. The sooner you know what you’re facing, the sooner you can take advantage of programs being offered to properly plan ahead for your child’s future. It’s years of paperwork, but it’s worth it.”
For more information on Autism Spectrum related topics click here, Autism.

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