The words you think about after speaking to Latoya Walton are faith, determination, and perseverance. Latoya’s faith is rooted in her religious upbringing and a very strong mother who went into her prayer closet to conquer her trials and tribulations. At a young age, she noticed when her mother came out of her closet, something was different. Walton is the Founder and CEO of MyKayla Ink, an organization dedicated to assisting families with special needs children in a wide capacity. After graduating high school, Latoya obtained a certification in Project Management and continued her career in E-Commerce Exchange as an account manager for a multitude of companies specializing in merchant services.
As a result of an unfortunate forced sexual encounter, she became pregnant at 18 years old. She did not think twice about keeping her baby because “God would not have blessed this seed if there were not a divine purpose as to why it should be here.” Her beloved daughter Kayla was born on November 6th, 1997 and three months later she was diagnosed with Idiopathic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy is the medical term for unknown reasons for a person having seizures. Three months after her diagnosis, Kayla went to sleep from having a seizure and passed while at the hospital. Fortunately, doctors were able to bring her back which caused her brain pattern to change. When Kayla was 1 ½ she was diagnosed with autism. This left a young Latoya devastated, confused, and a mother to a special needs child.
The common theme for Kayla was, “First she is sour, and then she is sweet.” This was because if loved you, she would do things such as kick you off of the couch, throw a shoe at you, and suddenly, out of the blue, she would come up to you and give you the biggest hug and sloppiest kiss. Kayla loved popcorn, had a beautiful heart, and was high-spirited no matter what was going on around her. She woke up each morning with an infectious huge smile on her face. Although she was not able to speak, she was a great reader of energy and was considered her mom’s spiritual guide because she could pick up on a person’s positive or negative energy. If she did not vibe with someone they were immediately removed from the line of family values keeping her loved ones out of harm's way. Kayla was an inspiration, not a child you can easily forget. As she grew older, she looked like a normal child but her mental development would always be delayed significantly. Kayla did well in her school’s special-ED program classes and was a scholar. As a young single mother, it was difficult for Latoya to decide between her career and finances or being there for her daughter’s special needs. Three days after Kayla’s 14th birthday, on November 11th, 2011 (11/11/11) Kayla’s Earth journey ended leaving her family at a loss for understanding and devastated.
Parents of special needs children enter the workforce and have to do their best to be a valuable part of the team. However, sometimes with the demands of a special needs child, you appear as if you do not care about the team. These demands can cause you to miss days from work, and keeping steady employment is an ongoing cycle. Work experience on a resume can seem short-lived and to employers, you look as if you are a job-jumper and someone not willing to go the extra mile. This is a misconception and not true for all parents with a special needs child. There must be a community to support a parent’s needs with a special needs child. This is where MyKayla Ink sparked and was born. After processing her grief, emotions, journaling, and prayer, Latoya got down to business. The “MY” is because she is Latoya’s child, “Kayla” is her name, and “Ink” is for the mark around the world she will leave to help other special needs families. MyKayla Ink exists to help families in an emergency situation get help such as: needing the child to be picked up from school, accompanying the child to the hospital, etc, so parents can remain at work until they can file for FMLA. FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) protects certain employees' jobs while they care for medical issues for themselves and/or family. Additionally, MyKayla Ink assists with FMLA paperwork serving as the bridge and connection needed. MyKayla Ink is like having that Aunt who is sitting around the house and will drop whatever they are doing to make sure they are there for you.
The MyKayla Ink process overview:
- Initial contact is made by parents via the website or email.
- Important information is provided about the family and special needs case
- A consultation is scheduled to discuss (IEP) Individualized Educational Plan, school work, and other pertinent information.
- An online profile is created.
- A move forward towards execution and how the organization will fit into your unique situation
- What services are needed? In what way will the services be provided?
- A support system is built and life moves forward in a positive way
- FMLA paperwork assistance is also included
- Once normal life resumes, the case is closed.
- If services are needed again in the future, the case is reopened.
A roadblock MyKayla Ink continues to face is in coding for grants and special services. There is often no exact coding for the type of business MyKayla Ink specializes in causing a red zone making it difficult to move forward. MyKayla Ink is also searching for volunteers, drivers, grant writers, donations, etc to help move the mission forward. All donations go to all aspects of the business. Latoya is living in the honor of Kayla and chasing her dreams while living a simple life as a mom who lost her child, looking to heal and help this community.
Ways to reach out to MyKayla Ink