Actress Holly Robinson Peete has been campaigning for autism awareness ever since her eldest son, RJ,14, was diagnosed with the disorder nearly 12 years ago. The mom of four recently sat down with BLAC Detroit to talk about surviving her son’s teen years, her hope for his future, and lots more. Check out highlights from the interview now!
How autism affects RJ in the teen years.
“For us, the hardest things are the social circles – you know, those packs of boys that run wild on a middle school campus. We’d been so fortunate to have a great elementary school that had groups of kids who just embraced him and lifted him up, and now that they are in sixth grade and going on to the next level, things are starting to go a little downhill. That’s hard for any teen, but when you are on the spectrum and you have social deficits it’s especially challenging.”
Holly’s approach to autism.
“What approaches haven’t I used? We’ve tried everything. In all fairness, I don’t like to talk about what’s worked and what hasn’t because it’s just too different for everybody. Part of the HollyRod Compassionate Care Center for Autism would be making some of these things affordable. We want to give (families) opportunities to try therapies without completely wiping themselves out. It is an expensive diagnosis and as soon as you get it you get this slew of things they need. You really have very few options if you have limited resources, and it’s incumbent on us make the services more available to people.”
How the rest of the family has coped.
“One of the positives is that they lift him up; they surround him with love. Also, his twin sister, we call her Sister Theresa because she is just so loving with him and caring with him. She takes on a lot of his issues and that can be difficult. The biggest, most important thing is the coat of armor he has around him in terms of a family who loves him and is there for him. The most important thing when you have a child with special needs is that your other children can feel neglected. You have to make sure you make them feel special as well.”
Necessary changes in evidence-based care for autism.
“One of the things that doesn’t need to change is the definition of autism. We don’t need to narrow the scope of who needs what. If anything, we need to broaden our resources, so children all over the spectrum can be treated. More than anything it’s empathy. It’s the overall theme of empathy for what’s going on with these children. Everyone should help, even by spreading the word that autism is treatable and that children with autism have thoughts and feelings. Even if they can’t ultimately express that, they’re there, they can hear you. They need love and need treatment. If we got started there, we would be doing real well.”
Read more at BLAC Detroit.com