As a part of CelebMix Cares, we are spreading awareness about autism this month. We have listed eight celebrities who aim to do the same.
Toni Braxton has been an advocate for autism since her youngest son Diesel was diagnosed. Diesel was diagnosed when he was three years old after Toni saw signs of it. Last year she said, “I remember the signs: like no eye contact, very little communication, just little things and I said ‘hmm.'” Since then, she has become an ambassador for Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is an organization who helps to fund research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism. They are increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. About the organization, she has said, “Autism Speaks is the first organization that reached out to me and said, ‘Look. These are the tools that you need to get your baby on the right track.'”
Toni Braxton also has an important message for every parent with a diagnosed child. She says, “As a parent you always feel, was there something I could have done differently. But what I’ve come to understand through my friends at Autism Speaks, is there is nothing wrong with our babies, and it’s nothing you’ve done or you could have done differently, it’s just what the situation is.”
Deron Williams is an NBA-player who is also a strong advocate for autism. His son D.J. was diagnosed with autism in 2011 when he was 22-months-old. About the symptoms, Deron says, “We thought he might have just had hearing issues when he wasn’t looking at us. We had his hearing checked. He was having nose bleeds, so we thought he might be having neurological damage.” He and his wife, Amy, founded Point of Hope, which supports children organizations through grants. Deron is also an ambassador for Autism Speaks. He has always felt the need to give back and help those who need it. In 2012, Deron hosted 30 families with autistic children affected by Hurricane Katrina at a Manhattan establishment for lunch, live music, activities and presents. Last year, he hosted an Autism Awareness game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Washington Wizards at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Yoko Ono was the first celebrity ambassador for Autism Speaks. In 2009, she created a seven-foot mural named Promises, to mark the World Autism Awareness Day. The mural consisted of 67 pieces of art which were auctioned off with starting bids of $1,000. When she became an ambassador for Autism Speaks she said, “As an artist the concept of distance means nothing to me. You can bring the whole world together with a song, a painting or a single word and that is what I have tried to achieve with Promise and I hope it has been able to make a difference.” In 2013, Yoko pulled the switch to light the Empire State Building blue on World Autism Awareness Day.
Kate Winslet has made it her mission to spread awareness about autism. She has created The Golden Hat Foundation. On her website, she asks people to “join me in honoring the intellectual capabilities of those with autism. Together we can make a difference.” She has also released the book The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism and narrated the documentary A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism. She once commented on the biggest misunderstanding about children with autism, saying that the biggest misunderstanding is “That they are not capable of understanding anything, that they are completely locked in their own worlds and aren’t paying attention to anything around them or that they are disinterested. Even those closest to them sometimes believe that. And so often that proves not to be the case.”
Jenny McCarthy’s son Evan was diagnosed with autism in 2005. Since then, Jenny has been very outspoken about the condition. She has also helped with Generation Rescue, which is the leading national organization that provides hope, information and immediate treatment assistance to families affected by autism spectrum disorders.
Jacqueline Laurita, the star of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, has a son on the autism spectrum. She has a column for Parenting Magazine where she has shared her own experiences with other parents. She has written a column called “Autism is Not a Shameful Secret”, where she wrote, “Our family faces many challenges, just like any other family. Right now, one of our greatest happens to be helping Nicholas recover from autism—because I believe it’s possible. Maybe not all children will recover, but many have, and all of us parents with a child on the spectrum should be given that hope.”
Holly Robinson Peete
Holly Robinson Peete’s eldest son RJ is diagnosed with autism. After the diagnose, she and her husband created the Hollyrod Foundation, which offers, “help and hope through compassionate care of families living with Autism and Parkinson’s Disease.” Holly is fighting for more resources for those who are affected by autism. She has helped install RJ’s Place grants and technology rooms in Children’s Hospitals and Autism Centers across the country to create a refuge for siblings who often accompany their sibling to treatment. Her organization’s technology centers are also used for prevocational training of young adults with Autism.
Dan Marino’s son, Michael, is on the autism spectrum. In 1992, Dan created the Dan Marino Foundation. Its mission was to open doors toward independence for children and young adults with autism and special needs by creating awareness and opportunities. Since then, Dan has done everything in his power to spread awareness about the condition and help those affected by it. He has also opened the Nicklaus Children’s Dan Marino Outpatient Center, which is a center for the comprehensive evaluation and treatment of children with autism and other special needs. It provides neurological and developmental services to children both nationally and internationally. Recent additions include a state-of-the-art sensory gym, adaptive aquatics center, orthotics division, and an urgent care center. He has also created several programs, such as the Spring Break Camp, which is a one week program for teens ages 15 – 22 with developmental disabilities. Its goal is to strengthen employability skills such as Career Goal Development, Resume Writing, Job Search Skills, Virtual Interactive Training Agent (ViTA), and Workplace Etiquette and Socialization.
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