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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Celebrities who have children with ASD

Celebrities with children and/or loved ones with ASD

Recently I read a post on a social network site that pondered the idea of how different the world could be if the "Royal Baby," first born to Prince William and Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge, would be diagnosed with ASD. This caused quite an uproar, causing some parents to reprimand the person who asked the rhetorical question for "wishing ill" upon the royal couple. Others confessed that they, too, wondered if it would change anything. This opened quite a can of worms and, to my surprise, all these comments started flying around about celebrities who "hide" their children's disabilities. Sure, the Royal Family is famous for their history of hiding their "imperfect" or "defective" children, but surely not ALL celebrities do the same... or do they??? This got me thinking and I decided to do some searching online to see what I could find.

In this country, celebrities are viewed as somewhat "royalty" and their actions influence many. In the case of celebrities with children or loved ones with ASD, some are highly vocal about it, others are silent but active in the community, and then there are the ones who just stay silent. Below is a list of "known" celebrities who have children with autism spectrum disorders (in no special order!!!). 

Click on any of the highlighted text to open links related to each of their stories. I just wanted to share these stories to let people know that there are more celebrities out there talking about their children's autism and doing so much for the communities! I have divided the list into three sections: 1) Active "on the front lines," 2) Quiet but active, and 3) Silent majority. I think you'll be surprised with what I found. I really could care less about whether celebrities make it public or not, but it sure was refreshing to read about the wonderful things so many of these folks with some power of influence are doing within their communities. Click on any highlighted text to go to their respective stories or websites. I hope you'll find their stories inspiring! This is a LONG post that took me MONTHS to compose, so bookmark it and come back to it for reference! :)



The active ones "on the front lines":
1. Holly Robinson Peete 

This actress and NFL quarterback, Rodney Peete, have four children together. One of their sons, Rodney Jr., was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old. They run a non-profit organization out of LA called HollyRod, which helps families with children who have autism. They are also highly active within the autism community, including Autism Speaks. To learn more about HollyRod, visit their website: http://www.hollyrod.org/holly/#.Uj-I6eCPIsp

2. Toni Braxton 

Toni Braxton's son son, Diezel, has autism. The R&B singer has been very vocal about doctors' reluctance to diagnose the condition right away, but instead recommended she should wait and see. She is now a major advocate for early detection and intervention for individuals with ASD and has been a spokesperson for Autism Speaks.  
3. Dan Marino 

Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino has a son named Michael who is diagnosed with autism. Like Toni Braxton, the Marino family was told by the doctor to wait and see how their son developed before diagnosing him with autism at age 2. Dan and his wife, Claire, started the Dan Marino Foundation to help countless families in partnership with Miami Children's Hospital in Florida, which specializes in treating children with autism and other developmental disorders. Michael is now an adult and, after receiving intensive therapy at an early age, is now reportedly living a wonderful, productive life.
4. Dough Flutie 

Former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie’s son, Doug Flutie Jr., was diagnosed with autism, specifically Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (one of the rarer forms of "Pervasive Developmental Disorders" now commonly known as ASD). He and his wife, Laurie, have been fervently active in the autism community through fundraising, autism awareness campaigns and community grants. In 200 they established the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation and stand by their motto of, "Helping families along the way...proudly serving the autism community since 1998."

5. Tommy Hilfiger and Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger 

Ocleppo has been quoted saying that she and her now husband initially bonded over shared family values. His older daughter and her son have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Both Tommy and Dee have been extremely active with Autism Speaks, making Public Service Announcements (PSA), fundraisers and various high-profile events to increase autism awareness.

6. Jaci Velasquez

Dove Award-winning Latin Christian contemporary singer, Jaci Velasquez, was named the Spokesperson for the 2013 Tennessee Walk Now For Autism Speaks. Jaci is married to Nic Gonzales, fellow Christian artist and lead singer of the Latin Christian contemporary band Salvador. Their son, Zealand, was diagnosed with autism in kindergarten.
Read more at http://global.christianpost.com/news/jaci-velaszquez-named-spokesperson-for-2013-tennessee-walk-now-for-autism-speaks-106889/#tS9elom0HAJXizok.99

7. Curt and Shonda Schilling 
This former major-league baseball pitcher with several World Series championships and a well-known legacy of the "bloody sock" while pitching with an open ankle injury to bring the Red Sox their first World Series victory in 86 years and his wife, Shonda, have a son with Aspergers named Grant. Shonda authored a New York Times Best Selling book, The Best Kind of Different, about her experiences as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum. They are both active in spreading autism awareness and sharing their experiences for the benefits of others.

8. Sylvester Stallone 

Another one of the celebrities who has an autistic child is Sylvester Stallone. His son Seargeoh was diagnosed with autism at age 3 after the infamous "Rocky" star and his former wife, Sasha Czack, recognized that he was having difficulties with communication. They refused to remain silent and Sylvester openly discussed the diagnosis and its impact in an interview with People Magazine in 1995. In 2005, he narrated a documentary and educational video produced by Rob Reiner titled A Child with Special Needs to help families cope with the diagnosis of autism. After the untimely death of his second son with former wife Sasha, Sage Stallone (who died of heart disease at the age of 36 in 2012   http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20625980,00.html), the family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Autism Speaks in honor of Seargeoh. 

9. Tisha Campbell-Martin and Dwayne Martin 

This actress and actor duo has been extremely vocal and active within the African American autism community. Their son, Xen, has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. They began the foundation, Color My Mind, to raise funds and awareness of autism targeting African American families. She recently completed a documentary with the same title and continues to work fervently for the cause. To read more about their story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZvI66eZ3PI

9. Ernie Els 

South African PGA golf champion, Ernie Els and his wife, Leizl, are the proud parents of their son, Ben, who has been diagnosed with ASD. In 2009 they established the Els for Autism Foundation and hope to open the Center of Excellence in 2015. The center is described as follows: "The physical components include an educational program for 300 students ages 3 to 21, applied research, medical and professional services, transition to adulthood and its myriad of aspects including adult living and job training." Ernie holds a yearly golf challenge to raise funds for his organization. Like Tommy Hilfiger and Toni Braxton, Ernie has joined forces with Autism Speaks and made a PSA to raise autism awareness internationally. To learn more:
Els for Autism: http://www.elsforautism.com/site/PageServer?pagename=Els_events_April_Autism_Awareness
Center of Excellence: http://www.ernieels.com/els_for_autism/center_of_excellence/index.html
Golf Challenge: http://www.elsforautism.com/site/PageServer?pagename=golf_challenge
Autism Speaks PSA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDc4auio2oQ

10. Jamie McMurray 

In honor of his niece who has been diagnosed with autism, NASCAR driver, Jamie McMurray, has used his high profile and his voice to fuel the autism awareness campaign. He started the Jamie McMurray Foundation and has also made a PSA with Autism Speaks
11. Jenny McCarthy
Although not my favorite person, there is no doubt that the Playboy model/actress/comedienne Jenny McCarthy is one of the most well known celebrities with child on the autism spectrum. Her son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism in 2005. The actress claims that this is what caused her divorce with her husband, as he was unwilling to deal with their son's condition. Since then, Jenny McCarthy has been an advocate of the condition. She is well known for her beliefs that childhood vaccines cause autism and that the condition can be controlled through proper diet. More recently, Jenny has joined the cast of the daily talk show The View and frequently uses that platform to express her position on autism care.

12. Jaqueline Laurita 

Known for her role on the reality show Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jaqueline revealed to the world that her son, Nicholas, has been diagnosed with autism. She has been extremely public about her journey, but not as active in fundraising or other organizations. Read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-murro/jacqueline-laurita-opens-_b_1848658.html

The quiet but active:

1. Ed Asner 

Actor probably best known for his role in the 70's sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and president of the Screen Actor's Guild. His son, Matthew, was diagnosed with autism around the age of 7 or 8 and is now an adult and has served as executive director of the Southern California chapter for Autism Speaks. He also has a grandson who was diagnosed with ASD. Not very visibly active within the autism community, he gave an interview for a video called Faces of Autism, has hosted poker tournaments to benefit Autism Speaks and Ed is quietly active with Autism Speaks.  He serves on the advisory committee for Aspiritech, a suburban Chicago firm that employs persons with autism spectrum disorders to test and program software.

2. Joe Mantegna 

The actor known for his role on the drama Criminal Minds, has a daughter who is diagnosed with ASD. He has been quietly but actively involved in the autism fundraising and awareness campaign for decades. His wife, Arlene, created the Autism Families Together Network.

3. Gary Cole 

The actor known for his roles in the movie Office Space and the HBO hit series Entourage has a daughter, Mary, who was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 2 in 1995. Gary is highly active and supportive with Autism Speaks and The Help Group. Read more of this story: http://celebritybabies.people.com/2009/03/28/gary-cole-opens-up-about-daughters-autism/  

4. Steven Stills 

Known as a member of the music group Crosby, Stills, and Nash has a son, Henry, who was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at age 3. He had been spinning things and lining up cars. "I'm shy about going public with this," Stephen explains. Kristen, his mom, believes autism is caused by a combination between genetic predisposition and environmental toxins. "Henry didn't have the regressive thing," she explains. "He was always a little 'off.' It was more pronounced at 2 because that's when kids are more social." In 2013, he and his wife decided to organize a concert for Autism Awareness Month: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/08/entertainment/la-et-ms-stephen-stills-benefit-20130409

5. Aidan Quinn 

Actor Aidan Quinn has a daughter diagnosed with autism. "The incidence of autism has gone up 500 percent since my daughter was diagnosed," says the actor. He is quietly involved with several organizations for autism research.

6. John Schneider (1) 

Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider’s son, Chasen, has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. "Chasen responded well to speech and language therapy and went from there to occupational therapy. But some things that most children just kind of learn by osmosis need to be taught to a child with Asperger's." John has also been quietly involved with Autism Speaks.

7. John Schneider (2)

No known relation to the actor, NFL's Seattle Seahawks' general manager, John Schneider and his wife, Traci, have been quietly active in the autism campaign. Their son, Ben, has been diagnosed with autism. They have been actively raising funds and awareness and are launching Ben's Fund in partnership with the Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) of the state of Washington to help provide grants and funding to families in need.

Just some of the "silent majority." I'm sure there are PLENTY more, but they choose to remain silent...

1. John Travolta and Kelly Preston 

Actors John Travolta and Kelly Preston’s first son, Jett, had autism before sadly passing away at the age of 16 after he had a seizure. The couple, who are Scientologists, didn’t talk about their son’s condition until he was testifying to a grand jury after the death of his son and revealed his son was indeed autistic. Preston said her son was "the most wonderful son that two parents could ever ask for."

2. Shawn Stockman 

The R&B singer best known for being a member of the grop Boyz II Men revealed his "private battles" with autism in an exclusive interview with CNN. Stockman describes how his world came crashing down 9 years ago when his then 2-year-old son Micah was diagnosed with autism.

3. Will Clark 

Former Major League Baseball player nicknamed "The Thrill", best known for his time with the San Francisco Giants. Will's son, Trey, who was born around 1996 was diagnosed with autism shortly after the age of 2. Since Will was still playing baseball at the time he admits that wife, Lisa, is the one who handled all the therapy appointments.

4. D.L. Hughley 

The comedian and radio personality has an adult son who is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Unfortunately, Mr. Hughley has not been very kind with the use of his words in regards to his son's disorder, so I will just put his name on the list as a "dishonorable mention."

5. DiDi Conn 

Best known for her performance as "Frenchie" in the movie Grease, DiDi Conn's adult son, Danny, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of 2. He is now more accurately described as having "high functioning autism."Didi has spoken of her son's diagnosis but continues to be part of the "silent majority"... or at least one of the ones we know about...

6. Richard Burton 

The well known actor who was married, not once, but twice to the graceful Elizabeth Taylor has a daughter, Jessica, who was diagnosed as autistic. Very little is known about her story, and what we know is very sad, including spending most of her life in an institution in New York:

7. Angie Dickinson and Burt Bacharach 

She's the actress best known for her TV role as the lead in "Police Woman." He is an accomplished and award winning composer, musician and performer. Together they had a daughter, Nikki, who was born extremely prematurely, was a very late talker, lacked social interactions and coping skills. Later in life she would be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Angie's only daughter, she spent most of her life in various hospitals and institutions. Sadly, Nikki committed suicide in 2007. Angie told her story in 2010 at the age of 78: http://www.parentdish.com/2010/09/29/angie-dickinson-reveals-tormented-motherhood-with-aspergers-dau/
Burt told his side of the story as well: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/event/article-2321487/Burt-Bacharach-married-times-lost-daughter-suicide--long-tells-story-words.html

8. Branford and Wynton Marsalis 

The award-winning and "genius" jazz musicians, known for their mastery of the trumpet and clarinet, have a younger brother, Mboya, who is autistic. Very little is known about him, but the following piece is quite touching: http://injectingsense.blogspot.com/2006/06/inspiration-of-love.html