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If you’ve seen buildings lit up with blue lights this week, it’s for a great cause. April is Autism Awareness Month and Autism Speaks is celebrating by asking buildings to light up blue.
The global initiative that was inspired by the United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) was created to help shed some light on the developmental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. In the U.S. alone, 1 in 88 children are on the autism spectrum, meaning they have some form, from mild to severe, of the disorder. Autism itself can cause difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.
Celebrity mom, actress, and activist Holly Robinson Peete has always been very open about the experience her own son, RJ, as had with autism. In a piece for the Huffington Post, Peete wrote about her fears of raising an autistic son and all of the expectations he is exceeding as a teen.
She recalls how her son’s doctor warned her that RJ would never talk, make friends, mainstream into school, or participate in organized sports. And while any of that would be hard to stomach, Holly says, “Oh and she topped it off with this gem: You will never hear him say that words ‘I love you’ unprompted.”
Her doctor turned out to be wrong, and RJ, who is now 15 years old, has “checked all of these ‘nevers’ off his list.” But Holly, who revels in her son’s affection, including his affirmation that he does in fact love her very much, is now facing a challenge that all parents will eventually — puberty. According to Holly, the mixture of hormones and autism is rough because it can bring on new issues like OCD, depression, and seizures.
“Autism needs more friends. My sincere hope is for a future where the compassion of our community will not only accept my son but also allow him the opportunity to flourish and give back to society,” Holly says.
As a parent of a special needs child, I'm proud to have such a determined and amazing mom like Holly as our voice.