Empowering the Special Needs Community
5 Celebrity Parents Who Are Open About Raising a Child with Autism
Autism doesn’t discriminate. And while the condition affects people differently, it impacts lives everywhere. It doesn’t matter who you are; where you live; your economic status or even what lifestyle choices you make. Autism knows no boundaries. It should come as no surprise then that even children of some of Hollywood’s glitziest celebrities have been impacted by this condition. Many of these celebrities have used their influence to raise awareness and shed some light on what it means to live life with autism. Celebrities who choose to get real about autism can to do a lot to challenge stigma and misconceptions. For many of us special needs parents, these celebrities are a source of hope and inspiration. They serve as a reminder that there are other parents who understand what we’re going through.
Here are 5 celebrities who are open about how autism has shaped their lives.
1. Sylvester Stallone
In 1982 Sylvester Stallone’s son, Seargeoh, was diagnosed with autism. He was 3-years-old at the time. Stallone and his wife called him the “silent genius” as even though he had problems expressing himself verbally, as a child he used to draw and write letters. “There is no real father-and-son thing there… I have to become his playmate. With a child like this, you have to put your ego away,” said Stallone of his son. While the diagnosis shattered the family, Stallone did a lot to raise awareness and even donated money to autism research.
2. Tommy Hilfiger
Designer Tommy Hilfiger has both a teenage daughter and stepson who are on the spectrum. Doctors initially noticed that Hilfiger’s daughter was developmentally delayed when she was 5 years old. Shortly after that that she was diagnosed with autism. Since then Hilfiger had done a lot to raise awareness and funds for various autism awareness initiatives. Hilfiger has been actively involved with the Autism Speaks foundation for many years. In 2011 he appeared in a Public Service Announcement for Autism Speaks in honor of his daughter. Hilfiger also launched a line of clothing tailored to suit children with autism in 2016.
3. Jacqueline Laurita
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star Jacqueline Laurita has a son with autism. Laurita and her husband noticed developmental delays when their son was young. He was officially diagnosed when he was two years old. Laurita has become very open about her family’s journey and experiences with autism. She uses this as an opportunity to raise awareness and challenge misconceptions. Laurita explained: “Some of you may wonder why we would be so open about our son’s disorder, maybe thinking that we should have kept it hidden—but we feel strongly that autism is not a shameful secret. Nicholas is our son, and we are proud of him. We are not ashamed of him or the diagnosis. We don’t ever want him to feel ashamed, either. My son is a beautiful little boy who is very smart and loving. Autism is one small piece of who he is.”
4. Paddy McGuinness
English comedian, comedy actor and television personality Paddy McGuinness has four year old twins who were diagnosed with autism two years ago. Towards the end of 2017, McGuinness and his wife Christine spoke openly about the parenting challenges they face. They explained how they’ve learned to tailor the holiday season to suit their twins’ unique need. Christmas can be especially tricky which is why last year they decided to have a low key Christmas without a tree. “The Christmas lights, trees, decorations and music… it was all too much. It was very over stimulating and with so much change everywhere, it was quite frightening for our children who were pretty much non-verbal, they had no understanding of what was going on,” said Christine of Christmas the year before.
5. Christopher Gorham
Actor Christopher Gorham, know for his roles in Ugly Betty and Covert fairs, has a son who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 9. “Because he’s very high functioning we didn’t really know that something was off until later. It’s upsetting to hear that something is wrong with your child. At the same time, it’s a relief to know what’s wrong with your child because if you know what’s wrong then you can start to take steps to help them,” said Gorham of his son. Gorham also explained that while he’s happy to discuss his experiences raising his child, he’s not willing to put his child on display for the media.”
As autism becomes increasingly prevalent, more and more celebrity parents are speaking out about the daily obstacles their child faces. This helps humanize the condition, and is an effective way to spread awareness.Which celebrity parents with special needs children inspire you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.