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Loving Uncle Amplifies Autism Awareness in Communities of Color After Niece’s Diagnosis

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Loving Uncle Amplifies Autism Awareness in Communities of Color After Niece’s Diagnosis

Derrick Jakolby Washington’s niece, Zyion was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain) at the age of 4 years old. Six years later, he describes a recent trip home to visit, where he attended a gymnastics class with Zyion in which he witnessed the instructor award every student in the class for doing a great job except his niece. He admits his niece needed a few extra instructions, but was able to complete every challenge given to her. 

Feeling heartbroken about the experience, they returned home where Zyion, unable to articulate her emotions verbally, began to replay a cartoon that summed up how she felt. The cartoon essentially described how bad it felt to be left out because you’re different and she played that part on repeat. He would go on to stay up most of the night researching Autism (ASD) and what it means in communities of color. According to NBC News “…the rate rose faster for children of color than for white kids. The new estimates suggest that about 3% of Black, Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander children have an autism diagnosis, compared with about 2% of white kids.” Appalled by the disparities in diagnoses and resources Washington quickly recognized a need for both, greater awareness in the “neurotypical world” and greater representation for neurodivergent communities. 

Brief Synopsis: “Meet 10- year-old Zyion, a fun-loving and energetic little girl who is loved and adored by her family. While Zyion recognizes that her family loves her, she is sometimes teased at school because she’s “different.” Zyion is autistic and sometimes has difficulty expressing how she feels. Journey with Zyion as she navigates those challenges while teaching an important lesson to her peers about embracing each other’s differences.“ 


The book has even garnered celebrity attention from actress Terri J. Vaughn, actor Malik Yoba, R&B singer Syleena Johnson, social media influencer Lexi Allen and was given a hilarious tribute video from comedic content creator Tony Talks.

MALIK YOBA – Actor/Philanthropist/Social Activist (NY Undercover / First Wives Club)

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Celebrity photographer and disabled Vietnam veteran Jerome Dorn embodies the very definition of resilience. Born in Philadelphia, the fifth of seven children, Dorn stayed focused throughout his youth, eventually obtaining his degree in Criminal Justice. Dorn has worked with the Philadelphia Police Department, Department of Justice, World Wide Detective Agency, and several other high profile security groups. Throughout his successful career, Dorn wrestled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an aftereffect of his military service. Battling the pain and debilitating effect of PTSD, Dorn found comfort behind the camera. Photography proved to be not only therapeutic, but life changing as well. Dorn picked up his first camera in 1970 while serving in Vietnam and knew instantly that behind the lens was where he belonged. His shooting style and photographs were special, generating a buzz in the industry. In 1985, he began his career in photojournalism, working in a variety of genres. Dorn’s credentials include fashion, lifestyle photography, photojournalism, and celebrity/red carpet coverage. Working with MSNBC, Jet Magazine, and major publications in Philadelphia and around the country, Dorn has had the honor of capturing the images of hundreds of notable celebrities and politicians including President Barack Obama, George Bush Jr, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Jesse Jackson, Rihanna, Snoop Dog, Will Smith, and Tyler Perry. Photography has sent Dorn around the globe, inspiring his passion for civil activism. In 1995, Dorn assembled and led a group of forty-two men to the Million Man March. Together, they spent five days walking from Philadelphia to Washington DC. In his travels, Dorn observed a common theme amongst the youth of the world. Many of the children he encountered seemed lost. Understanding that opportunities for at-risk youth are minimal, Dorn was inspired to make a difference. Established by Dorn in 2011, InDaHouseMedia was built on the idea that there is room in the house for everyone. With InDaHouseMedia, Dorn’s mission is to provide the future generation with positive direction through sports, music, and photography.

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