"Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Jacqueline Laurita recently revealed that her 3-year-old son, Nicholas, has autism.
In an interview with People, Laurita explained that Nicholas' speech and motor skills began to regress when he was around 18 months old. "We had no idea what was going on," said the mother of three, who for several years had struggled to conceive. "I spend all my time researching what we can do for him." Jacqueline and husband Chris have managed to keep their son out of the spotlight, despite the fact that their reality show just concluded its fourth season.
Jacqueline (42) was pregnant with Nicholas during the first season of "Real Housewives," and she spoke openly about her painful miscarriages and fertility struggles. She and Chris are also parents to a son named C.J. (10) and Jacqueline's daughter Ashlee (21) from a previous marriage.
Laurita's announcement has drawn attention to the many other celebrity parents who have autistic children.
Since her son Evan (10) was diagnosed with autism in 2005, the former Playmate of the Year has gone the extra mile in raising awareness for the cause and advocating for her son. McCarthy (39) has written three books on the disorder, including Louder than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism and Healing and Preventing Autism. While some of her beliefs have caused controversy, the devoted mother has served as an impassioned spokesperson for such organizations as Talk About Curing Autism and Generation Rescue.
Grammy Award-winner Toni Braxton has been a celebrity spokesperson for the Autism Speaks organization since her son Diezel (9) was diagnosed in 2006. Braxton (44) wept when speaking about her son, saying "All of us must continue to fight until we have found the cause and a cure." Calling autism a "devastating disorder that is impacting thousands of families, Braxton has raised awareness through frequent tweets and benefit concerts.
"21 Jump Street" star Holly Robinson Peete, whose son Rodney (15) is autistic, says she hopes to increase awareness of autism through open and honest communication. The former host of "The Talk" said simply, " When my son was diagnosed with autism, I noticed that not everyone was talking about their experience." She continued, "I had a platform for communicating and wanted to share our experiences with other families to try and help."
Irish-born actor Aidan Quinn, known for his roles in "Legends of the Fall" and "Desperately Seeking Susan," has an autistic daughter named Ava, who is now 23. Calling the disorder "a blessing and a curse," Quinn says that the diagnosis put a tremendous strain on his marriage to Elizabeth Bracco, sister to actress Lorraine Bracco. Once they adjusted, the couple found "delight" in watching Ava, who does not speak, laugh and enjoy the company of friends.
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