Two FAMU students tackling autism

Photo of FAMU seniors Kiera Macklin and Jae Allen courtesy: Peace by Piece Instagram

A local foundation created by two FAMU students is hosting events all month long for Autism Awareness Month.

Peace by Piece is an independent, non-profit organization that caters to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in minority communities. Its founders, Jae Allen and Kiera Macklin, are both fourth-year psychology majors at Florida A&M University.

Striving to become registered behavior technicians, their journey unfolded working at an intervention center for young children on the autism spectrum in Marietta, Georgia.

The 21-year-olds treasure the origin story of their program.

I began interning at the Behavior Analysis and Intervention Center blindly; just knowing it was psychology-related. I fell in love with science, the kids, and everything else, which is why I became an RBT. Kiera also worked there and one lunch break discussing clients, she told me about an idea about how we could help the issues we were seeing by starting Peace by Piece,” Allen said.

Macklin said that the idea for the foundation was unveiled in a dream that pictured them significantly uplifting the autism community and it even displayed their office. She said soon after, she pitched the idea to her counterpart, Allen, who was well-informed on ASD; and what was born as a vision rose to emerge in real life.

July 14, 2023, Peace by Piece was established to provide support, resources, and awareness regarding autism in minority communities through service, care, and education.

Statistically, Black and minority children are not only the most underrepresented and misdiagnosed with ASD, but to top it off, Black girls specifically, are left out of autism research. What this means is, that intervention and medical practices aren’t inclusive or progressing for the good at all. It is important to advocate and be the voice of change,” Allen said.

Prompted by the lack of awareness and limited resources, the negative stigma surrounding autism has disempowering effects causing numerous individuals to grow up unaware of that part of themselves. This often leaves children feeling misunderstood and/or unaccommodated.

Woven in the works of their mission statement, Peace by Piece seeks to empower the next generation of underrepresented communities through their support for education.

No discrimination in education,” they emphasize.

The Atlanta-based duo disrupts this discrepancy by awarding two high school seniors with ASD scholarships to further their education each year.

Exploring Extraordinary Education Scholarship is an initiative to support scholars of the Autism Spectrum Disorder community,” they said.

A lot of Black girls dont get diagnosed with autism until they’re in their late teens or early 20s because people are thinking that autism looks one way and it doesn’t show up for everyone the same way. People think autism has a specific look, but they don’t know what it looks like across the board for different genders and different races,” Macklin said.

Through endless informational feats, fundraising, and community service events, the non-profit has been adamant about tackling this issue. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

During their recent poster-making event at FAMU, autism awareness signs decorated by the huddled participants caught the eye of one particular student who personally resonated with the chromatic array. She said that she was recently diagnosed with autism while in college.

She said that growing up, she always felt like the quirky, Black girl,” or as if sometimes she didnt fit in. Now navigating life through a new lens, she said that seeing this support; especially on her campus, goes a long way.

Macklin says their event invoked such gratitude. Just being in the space for her to see the organization and her being able to share her story; like, that was something that was very important to me. And I can tell that it was something that made her feel seen as a Black woman with autism. So I really appreciated that moment,” she added.

In a number of their events, Peace by Piece incorporated various materials to educate the participants including sensory boxes. Personally crafted by the founders, the sensory boxes allow participants to explore the different senses.

Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder that can heighten or decrease sense. Sensory boxes have multiple purposes whether it be learning functional play, desensitizing them to certain textures, and just a creative way to teach receptive and expressive communication skills like counting, sorting, and identifying colors,” Allen said.

Their very first event was a sensory toy drive where they donated over 120 sensory toys to the early childhood intervention center where they worked.

Especially since we worked with them on a day-to-day basis; you kind of get to know what kid likes what. So to just go out and pick certain stuff specifically for them and see their faces light up when they got to play with the toys — it was very heart-warming,” Macklin said.

For Autism Awareness Month, they are having events all month long and kicked it off with First Friday at Railroad Squares art district. There they offered face painting and information on ASD at Obsessions Gifts.

The day after that event, they hosted an awareness walk on FAMUs campus. They continued their series with a mental health and wellness fair at FAMUs Rec Center on April 17, and plan to end it with Art Case on April 27 for both neurotypicals and divergents to show off their artwork. They also have fundraisers throughout the month which are showcased on their Instagram page.

For more information about the Peace by Piece Foundation or any of their upcoming events, you can visit their Instagram page @peacebypiecefoundation or email them at