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Holly Robinson Peete Inspires and Informs

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In the midst of Autism Awareness Month, Holly Robinson Peete is speaking out about her life with 12-year-old son RJ (who is autistic) and his twin sister, Ryan (who is not).

holly robinson peete

She recently debuted her first children's book, "My Brother Charlie," which is told from a sister's point of view and takes families on an educational journey of understanding and hope.

We talked with Holly about being a new children's author -- and about how her family is adjusting to life as high-profile activists for autism awareness.

momlogic: What would you like parents and children to take away from "My Brother Charlie"?
Holly Robinson Peete: The main message of the book is hope. For ten years, we had no hope; we had nowhere to turn for support. For one thing, there was no book out there to help my husband cope with becoming a dad to a child with special needs. And two, there was no book for our daughter to cope with having a sibling with special needs. So we took it upon ourselves to write one! We're very happy that a publishing company as big as Scholastic embraced this book. Many other publishers we went to just didn't get it. They didn't feel that there was a market for it. But there was, and it's evident in how people are reacting to it. People are looking for more awareness and understanding of autism for a younger age group. Ultimately, we'd love for this to be a staple in libraries across the nation.

ml: How did your daughter Ryan help you write this book?
She has her own author credit on the cover!
HRP: She was the one who brought the concept to me! There was not one book out there -- or any resource, really -- that talked about what siblings of autistic children go through. She wanted to explain to people how her brother's brain worked. So really the concept came from her own experiences and a need to explain to people what her brother was really like as a person. We wanted to take away the fear and misconceptions about children with autism. Children who have an autistic sibling can sometimes feel neglected. Playdates get ruined and vacations get short. It's not always easy. So the credit she is getting for this book is wonderful. She signed books for all of her teachers and her librarian. She knows how special it is to have a creative-writing credit at this young age. She is very proud of her accomplishments and is taking her role as a young activist very seriously.

ml: As a mother of a child with autism, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about autistic children?
HRP: The biggest misconception that people have is that they think just because an autistic child is non-verbal, that they cannot understand or take in what is going on around them. They think they are not intelligent ... and they are! They are often very, very bright, but lack the skills to verbally communicate. I recently had lunch with a group of teenage girls who are on the autism spectrum, all of whom were non-verbal. I was blown away by what they said to me. They wrote all of their communication down, and I read it. They said that people talk about them like they aren't there, call them "dumb" or speak louder because they think the problem is they can't hear. None of this is true.

ml: If you could tell parents one thing about life with a child who has autism, what would it be?
HRP: I feel blessed to tell this story in front of the media. This road was not one we chose, but one that was handed to us by God. We went through a lot of emotions when RJ was diagnosed. There was denial and marital issues from being upset with our situation. It was a real journey -- and we're still on it -- but we are in a stage of acceptance, and now we want people to understand and also know they are not alone. We know that it would have helped us to see another couple speak out about their journey.

ml: You have so many great endorsements for this book (Al Roker, Bill Cosby, Magic Johnson, Dan Marino and more). How does it feel to know that your book is being so well-received?
HRP: Well, it tells us, first off, that there was really a need for this book! We sent out ten requests for book endorsements and got eight of them back -- immediately. The only two people who didn't respond were the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Oprah, because, well, they're busy! We think that's pretty good! We have tremendous respect for all of them. Dan Marino is also a parent to an autistic child, and an advocate himself.

Want to read "My Brother Charlie"? Three lucky moms will receive a copy -- one of which will be signed by Holly! Enter here.
My Brother Charlie

next: 'Real Housewife' Jill Zarin's 'Secrets of a Jewish Mother'
4 comments so far | Post a comment now
anon April 18, 2010, 2:52 PM

She is so annoying on the Celebrity Apprentice.

HeeHee April 18, 2010, 3:11 PM

She must not be able to get any acting jobs.

Sue  April 18, 2010, 5:18 PM

I can’t stand her. I hope she gets the boot tonight on CA.

Dijah April 18, 2010, 8:10 PM

Holly your sharing is so inspirational! Being a mom of two children, I could not imagine having a special needs child. Holly please keep the faith and keep sharing your special expereince with the world. Your voice is being heard around the world!!!

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