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To Holly Robinson Peete, From a Fellow Mom of an Adult Son With Autism

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I believe Holly Robinson Peete is a rare Hollywood personality — she’s authentic and genuine. What you see on the screen or stage is who you’ll meet in person when the lights are off and cameras aren’t running. I had an opportunity to see her present and then sit down with her one-on-one at the inspirational Power of Possibilities, an event hosted by Community Gatepath to honor people with disabilities.

I was so moved by her words, I wanted to write this open letter to tell her publicly what they meant to me as a mother of an adult son with autism.

Photo credit: Community Gatepath (

Dear Holly,

“Never limit what’s possible for your child.”

Such a powerful statement. And it’s so true, isn’t it, Holly? You proved it when you talked about your family’s journey with autism — how at 2 years old, your son RJ stopped making eye contact and interacting with his twin sister. You knew in your gut (as all of us moms do) that something was wrong. And when he was diagnosed with autism, the doctors told you all the “would nots:”

… He wouldn’t make it through school.

… He would never have real friends.

… He would never have a real conversation.

… He would never say I love you.

… He would never play sports.

Now 18 years later, your son has proved all those “would nots” all wrong!

“He is so phenomenal and advocates for himself. He has challenges but he has a very bright future, and I’m so proud of him because he’s been able to show that you never let anybody limit the expectations or possibilities for your child’s life.”

I was overwhelmed hearing those words because they are also my words, my family’s story and how we always believe in unlimited possibilities. Today my adult son with autism is thriving even with his challenges and is living a happy and fulfilled life. Just like your RJ will as he transitions into adulthood. Of that, I have no doubt.

“I wouldn’t change my son for the world, but I would change the world for my son.”

Yes! Once again you speak my words, as they are the words that reflect the hearts of every special needs mom. 

When I had a chance to sit down with you mom-to-mom, we continued to talk about changing the world for our kids. It was disappointing to hear that many in Hollywood won’t speak about their own personal experiences with autism because they’re afraid of the stigmas attached to it. You told me there has been movement in the right direction, but you are looking for a seismic shift off the Richter scale when it comes to public figures speaking about autism and a national autism initiatives agenda.

When I asked how can we get those outside the special needs community to care, you urged each of us to use every opportunity we have — at a school meeting, a church gathering, a public event, on social media — to spread awareness about autism to let people know how valuable our children are. Do it so there’s always hope for them,” you said.

I’m so excited that you and the entire Peete family will be doing just that by taking your advocacy a step further into the limelight. I can’t wait for your upcoming new docuseries, “For Peete’s Sake,” to get an insider’s look into your family’s life. Since so many teens with autism are transitioning into adulthood like your son RJ, I look forward to watching him get his first job and how you, dear momma, guide him toward becoming more independent.

Like you, I hope your show will put an even greater national spotlight on autism awareness and the need for employment opportunities. I applaud you for putting your family out there so the mainstream can witness how valuable those with autism and special needs are to society. Let’s hope that people and companies will learn that it’s beneficial to look beyond disabilities to discover there’s “power in possibilities.”

The author with her son, Jonathan

“Embrace the out-of-the box… you’ll be surprised and delighted with what you’re going to get.”

Lead photo source: Jodi Murphy/Community Gatepath

Originally published: November 4, 2015
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