Mom sacrifices job for autistic sons
Family in need of aid to finance assessments for special-ed school placement
It’s been a long, rough journey for Shakira Bryan Davis, the mother of two sons who have been diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
That sacrifice includes the 36-year-old mother quitting her job as an early childhood educator to support her sons in online classes since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tantrums, poor eating, communication challenges and reports from their school about screaming and shouting with their ears covered were early signs that something was wrong with her sons. But the mother was of the view that they would outgrow those behaviours.
“It prolonged throughout basic school, so I figured that something was wrong because at five, they weren’t really talking or expressing themselves, and they still had eating issues,” she told The Gleaner.
Bryan Davis decided to get them assessed and as soon as she arrived at the facility, she was told that both her sons were autistic, even before screening was done.
The mother submitted the assessment reports to their basic school which was accepted but when it was time for Samuel to transition to primary school where he would need a shadow, she was informed that the assessment was insufficient.
“They referred me to the Child and Family Life Clinic and it took a while because it was in the height of COVID-19, so I just got the second assessment last month and that stated that they have moderate autism,” Bryan Davis said.
The family is now seeking financial assistance to offset the costs of psychoeducational assessments.
The assessments, which cost $65,000 each, are required for seven-year-old Samuel and six-year-old Caleb to be placed in a special-education school.
When schools reopened for face-to-face classes this year, she took on the role of Samuel’s shadow for about four months. It was a challenge keeping them still because of the ADHD symptoms, and sometimes she had to write for Samuel or take him outside for breaks.
The Davis boys are also in need of therapy to improve their behaviour and with the assessment per child being $12,000 and $7,500 per hour for therapy, the family simply cannot afford it, as they are surviving on a single income from her husband, Ralston Davis.
She has spent countless hours helping them with speech, developing self-help skills and teaching them with music and other creative means.
“I have been doing it on my own so far and I’ve tried my very best to get help and to teach them because they were not verbal, and I figured out how to get them to this stage but I feel like I am at a roadblock,” she said in a low tone.
Public transportation has also been a nightmare for the mother and her boys, as passengers often lack understanding of their developmental disability and pass off rude comments.
“A lady cursed a bad word at my son the other day and it brought tears to my eyes. He was just fascinated by her clothes and she kept saying, ‘Tell him not to touch me.’
“I had to ask somebody to switch seats with me,” she recounted, as tears welled up in her eyes.
She also has to travel from their residence in Ensom City, Spanish Town, with a caregiver who assists her with her sons on the road, adding to the already high transportation cost.
Bryan Davis told The Gleaner that her sons have the ability to do well educationally, as Samuel reads at the level of a sixth-grader and placed second in his class in the recently concluded academic term.
Samuel enjoys dancing and loves history, singing and reading, while Caleb is a fan of numbers, counting, sports, singing, and musical instruments.
“There’s nothing I would not do for my children. I don’t get enough rest and sometimes I don’t even eat properly because my focus is on them. It’s an emotional rollercoaster,” she said.
How you can help:
Bank – VM Group
Account name – Shakira Bryan
Account # – 25505827
Branch: Spanish Town
Bank – Jamaica National Bank
Account name – Ralston Davis
Account # – 10687223
Branch – Spanish Town