Holly Robinson Peete is a mother on a mission. She is determined to raise awareness about autism and give support to parents of children suffering from the disability, even if that means opening her own no-cost centers throughout the country.
Although medical treatments have attributed much to her son RJ’s success, Holly gives much credit to organizations for spreading awareness through booklets and public events about autism. As she explains, “It’s still very confusing. Fortunately, we have some pretty great organizations that can guide you. Autism Speaks is one of them. They have 100-day kits for the first 100 days after a diagnosis for what you can do. And they have a lot of community resources and a database on their website. You have organizations like ours, HollyRod, which gives compassionate care to families. We’re working really hard to erect a compassionate care center where families can go. Hopefully that will be the model that can spread across the country. The one I look at as the Holy Grail is St. Jude, where families can go and deal with their children’s cancer without having to worry about paying for it. Where is the St. Jude for autism? That’s in my sights, doing something like that.”
When asked about her son’s progress, Holly says, “It’s challenging because the teen hormones can really cause erratic and a little bit of regressive behavior. You feel like you’ve moved past a lot of things like stimming (self-stimulatory behavior like flapping, rocking or spinning) or some of the things that he’s been doing as a child that you feel like you’ve grown out of, you’re seeing that again. Also, just dealing with girls and social circles and all these things that are already a nightmare for any typical teenager or typical teenager’s parents. But when you fold in autism, you have social issues that are really difficult to navigate. I try to have those conversations publicly as often as possible because, you know, we don’t talk about it enough.”
RJ was diagnosed with autism 12 years ago. Holly and husband Rodney Peete have four children in all.