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Holly’s Gift to the Autism Community

April 26, 2011 19 comments

This is a guest post by Peter Bell, the executive vice president for programs and services at Autism Speaks. He oversees the foundation’s government relations and family services activities and also serves as an advisor to the science division.

Peter Bell, Debra McElwain, Jason McElwain, Holly Robinson Peete, Zev Glassenberg, and Justin Kanew


For many of us in the autism community, April has become our holiday season. This year, one of the many gifts we received was extensive autism coverage on the popular CBS day time show “The Talk.” It’s probably no secret who played Santa Claus for us behind the scenes. It was none other than Holly Robinson Peete, co-host of “The Talk,” co-founder of the HollyRod Foundation and Autism Speaks Board Member. Holly and her husband former NFL star Rodney Peete  are also the proud parents of four beautiful children including RJ who is 13 years old and has autism. “Santa Holly” started planning the autism series months in advance which is obvious when you see all the segments they produced for the show’s Autism Awareness Month.

Holly and her co-hosts kicked off the month on April 1st with a beautiful video about the Peete family’s personal journey with autism. After an emotional chat with her fellow cast members, Holly invited me to talk about what families can do following a diagnosis. We discussed the basics of autism, what it is, what causes it, and what resources are available to families including Autism Speaks’ 100 Day Kit. At the show’s conclusion, audience members were given special blue t-shirts from “The Talk” and many were brought up on stage. After Holly and co-host Julie Chen urged President Obama to light up the White House blue, the ladies of “The Talk” did a countdown which culminated in transforming the set to blue in honor of Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue initiative.

The second installment of “The Talk’s” Autism Awareness Month took place on April 8th and featured an Autism Daddy Roundtable with “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna and Holly’s husband Rodney Peete. The conversation about a dad’s perspective on autism continued with Jimmie Smith, a single father from Baton Rouge who raising two children on his own. He described coming to terms with his son’s autism diagnosis. Although mothers are most often the parent who takes primary responsibility for caring for a child with autism, Holly wanted to shine a light on the important role that fathers can and should take, a view not often portrayed.

On April 15th, Holly introduced us to two amazing teenagers who have overcome the challenges of autism to show the world their remarkable talents. Carly Fleischmann shared her remarkable story that captured the world’s attention when, after never speaking a word, she found her “voice” through the keypad of her computer. We then met 19 year-old Winfred Cooper and his father who shared Winifred’s incredible story accomplishing a 67 yard touchdown in high school football game. The show’s autism segment ended with pediatrician Ricki Robinson, MD offering real and practical solutions about transitioning through the teen years. Dr. Robinson is the author of Autism Solutions: How to Create a Healthy and Meaningful Life for Your Child and serves as a member of the Autism Speaks Scientific Review Panel.

The fourth and final autism segment took place on April 22nd.  “Amazing Race” teammates Zev Glassenberg and Justin Kanew joined Holly and Julie to chat about doing another season as well as the triumphs and challenges they faced with Zev having Asperger’s Syndrome. The next segment featured YouTube sensation Jason McElwain (J-Mac) who shared his inspirational story from 2006 when a high school basketball game changed his life forever. Accompanied by his mom Debra, Jason talked about his life today and his hopes for the future as an adult with autism. Finally, Holly and Leah invited me back to talk about the services adults will need and what society can do to help people with autism and their families lead more fulfilling lives. This afforded me the opportunity to highlight the recently introduced Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit.

Perhaps the best segment of the month is one that most people haven’t seen. After the third show featuring the amazing teens with autism, Holly shared her gratitude with the studio audience while the cameras were still rolling. Throughout her “autism journey,” Holly has always taken a strong stand for autism. She genuinely believes in those who live with autism and wants to shine a bright light on their special talents and skills. She believes in listening to people with autism and helping their families care for them as best as possible. In addition to being remarkably talented, Holly is one of the most compassionate and generous celebrities in Hollywood. On behalf of the autism community, thank you “Santa Holly” for giving us the greatest gifts we could ever ask for – believing in our children and advocating for their futures.

Holly Robinson Peete and Peter Bell

Tune in to CBS’s “The Talk” Friday, April 15

CBS‘s “The Talk”  will profile inspiring stories of teens living with autism, including 16-year-old Carly Fleischmann.  Although Carly can’t speak, this incredible young woman has a lot to say.  She tirelessly advocates for others with autism by communicating her feelings and emotions on an iPad with revolutionary apps such asproloquo2go, using her inspirational Web site and blogs to “speak” to the world.

Read a release from CBS describing the whole series here.  And see how “The Talk” lit it up blue on April 1 here.

Check your local listings for the time near you!

Tune in to “The Talk” Friday, April 8

April 8, 2011 1 comment

CBS’s popular talk show “The Talk” will feature the the second of four weekly segments about autism on Friday, April 8.  The April 8 segment of focuses on fathers of children with autism.  Sometimes called the “forgotten parents,” this show explores how fathers process an autism diagnosis differently, resulting in marital discord. Holly Robinson Peete’s husband, former NFL QB Rodney Peete, author of “NOT MY BOY, A Father, A Son and One Family’s Journey With Autism,” and actor Joe Mantegna join the show for a conversation with fathers whose children have been diagnosed with autism.

Read a release from CBS describing the whole series here.  And see how “The Talk” lit it up blue on April 1 here.

Check your local listings for the time near you!

The Talk Lights It Up Blue on April 1

April 3, 2011 4 comments

 

On Friday April 1, the set of the popular CBS daytime talk show “The Talk” provided a unique and special venue to Light It Up Blue for World Autism Awareness Day. To kick off the show’s four segments on autism during April, co-host and Autism Speaks board member Holly Robinson Peete shared a beautiful video about her family’s personal journey with autism featuring her 13-year-old son RJ. After an emotional chat with her fellow cast members, Holly welcomed Autism Speaks Executive Vice President Peter Bell to talk about what families can do following a diagnosis. They discussed the basics of autism, what it is, what causes it, and what resources are available to families including Autism Speaks’ 100 Day Kit. 

At the show’s conclusion, audience members were given blue “The Talk” t-shirts and many were brought up on stage. After Holly and co-host Julie Chen urged President Obama to light up the White House blue, the ladies of “The Talk” did a countdown which culminated in transforming the set from red to blue in honor of Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue initiative.

On Friday, April 8 the next autism segment will highlight fathers including Holly’s husband, former NFL player Rodney Peete and actor Joe Mantegna, start of the CBS hit show “Criminal Minds.” The following Friday (April 15), the segment will showcase special teens with autism who have overcome challenges. A final segment on April 22 will focus on the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Bell will return as a guest along with former high school basketball phenom Jason McElwain who is now 22.

Autism Speaks thanks Holly and the producers of “The Talk” for devoting so much of their time to covering these important topics for the autism community.

Tune in To “The Talk” Friday, April 1

March 31, 2011 3 comments

CBS’s popular talk show “The Talk” will feature the first of four weekly segments about autism on Friday’s show. April 1 is not only the eve of World Autism Awareness Day, but it is also the first day of Autism Awareness Month. Holly Robinson Peete, co-founder of the Holly Rod Foundation, Autism Speaks Board member, and co-host of “The Talk” will share her personal story about when her son RJ was diagnosed with autism. Autism Speaks Executive Vice President Peter Bell will then join  Holly to discuss autism and what families can do after a diagnosis as well as talk about World Autism Awareness Day and the Light It Up Blue initiative.

Read a release from CBS describing the whole series here.

Check your local listings for the time near you!

 

Holly Robinson Peete and Peter Bell

Tune in to ‘The Talk’ today at 2pm ET!

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

All this week, The Talk has been getting to “The Heart of the Holidays,” making holiday dreams come true for some very special  families. Don’t miss Thursday, December 16th  as Autism Speaks Board Member Holly Robinson Peete and the HollyRod  Foundation bring holiday cheer to a single  mom whose 3 youngest boys are all diagnosed  with autism. Meet this  inspirational mom and get a glimpse into the  family’s life.

Holly Robinson Peete is a member of the Autism Speaks Board

For more information on The Talk visit their website.

Click here for more information on the HollyRod Foundation.

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