Elgin, Ala. – James Michael Hawkins’s story begins with a mama who was told from the age of 16 she would never have children. After 8 years of marriage, God blessed Ashley and Matt Hawkins with a child. Ashley had a very difficult pregnancy, with several hospitalizations for dehydration and kidney failure at 26 weeks. During her pregnancy, Ashley underwent five surgeries to save her kidneys and her baby. James Michael, known as “JM”, was delivered four weeks early in April 2016. As an RN, Ashley noticed things during JM’s growth stages that weren’t right. With her insistence and constant nagging, the pediatrician sent JM to Vanderbilt Hospital. It was there where JM was diagnosed with Autism this past January. The specialists recommend Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to help him gain necessary skills as he grows. This vital therapy comes at a cost of $50 per hour and is recommended six hours per week for a grand total of $300 per week. Since Ashley is an RN at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital (ECM) and her husband is also employed, they do not qualify for disability, Medicaid, or any other government assistance for JM. During last year’s legislative session, the Alabama legislature voted in May 2017 for all insurance companies to provide coverage for autism, but gave them until December 2018 to comply. If Ashley and Matt had waited a year to put him into therapy, it would have set him back up to four years in development, so the family just jumped in and started paying. For the Hawkins family it did not matter what they had to give up to help JM. They were determined to give him the ABA therapy he needed.
Through social media, everyone had fallen in love with JM over the course of Ashley’s pregnancy and his birth. Once it was posted about his diagnosis, members of the community began to take action. People have been generous with donations, fundraisers, and much more aimed at keeping this baby in therapy and giving him a voice. JM is now almost two years old and has never spoke a word. Ashley once said, “If I could hear him say mama one time, I would be okay and carry that memory with me.” A couple of weeks ago, JM had a break through moment when he began calling Ashley, “wawa.” Ashley’s mom, Stacy Peebles, decided to make her a t-shirt that says, “wawa is just mama upside down.” The family says, “We are so blessed that God chose us to be his family. We have a long journey ahead, but with the help of God and our ‘village’, will be just fine!”
If you would like to help JM and the Hawkins family, you can send donations to PayPal. You can also go to the Facebook page that has been set up for JM called, “JM’s Journey.” You can also donate at any Listerhill Credit Union location. The account is called, “James Michael Grant Hawkins Benefit Fund.” The account number is 80035500. Below is an event that is planned for April 21st at the North Alabama Flea Market. Please share this story with your friends and encourage them to help this family as well.