Yesterday I reviewed My Brother Charlie, and talked about the HollyRod Foundation, launched by Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete. On Friday, the weekday CBS Show, The Talk, focused on fathers with autistic children. Rodney, actor Joe Mantegna, and single dad Jimmy Smith, shared their experiences in a roundtable discussion led by Holly. After watching the program, and reading Rodney’s book, Not My Boy!, it felt significant to discuss the impact on dads, who sometimes feel left out of the equation.
Joe Mantegna has a 23-year-old daughter, Mia, who graduated with honors. Joe said “he was relieved the first day of school when Mia’s teacher, who had an autistic child, welcomed her with love and talked to the classroom about how they all would help her.” Jimmy Smith said he woke up one day when he realized that his son had an excellent memory and wanted to learn. All three men said they were just glad to talk with other dads!
Rodney, a former NFL quarterback, was candid about how his son’s autism affected him. “I had dreams for R.J. and wanted to do all the things that father’s do with their sons,” said Rodney. “I wanted to take him into the locker room, play ball, but R.J. wanted to watch the water run across the rocks in a stream. I was in denial, refused to accept R.J.’s diagnosis, would not read any books on the subject, and wouldn’t talk to other dads. I decided I am going to fix this. That’s what dads do.”
One day Rodney had a pivotal moment when he took R.J. to the therapist. “I got down on the floor and tried to play with R.J., and there was no connection,” he said. “The therapist showed me how he connected with R.J., and within minutes I saw my son laughing and talking. It broke my heart — a stranger was connecting with my son. In that moment I knew I had to turn things around.” He realized that the entire family needed to be on the same page. Today R.J. has gone beyond expectations and plays soccer, with his dad there cheering him on.
Not My Boy! should be required reading for all father’s who have children who fall under the autism spectrum. It is a powerful look at Rodney’s own inner journey with his son’s autism. It offers a message of hope and inspiration for families.
Next Friday, Apr. 15, at 2 p.m. EDT, The Talk, will feature inspirational teenagers who are autistic.
Visit elizabethannewrites and read reviews of two excellent young adult books that honor Autism Awareness Month.