Autism Speaks Live Chat with Former NFL Quarterback Rodney Peete
Hi, I’m Rodney Peete, Co-Founder of The HollyRod Foundation. I am so excited to be here to chat with you and share our story. I hope that I can help you along your journey
Comment From Rae
how did your son’s inital diagnosis affect your relationship with your son?
My son’s initial diagnosis really started to drive a wedge between us because I didn’t know what autism was
As he started to withdraw and become more non-verbal I didn’t know how to interact with him. Mostly it was because I did not know about autism so I needed to educate myself
I was heavily in denial about his condition and diagnosis
I probably, like many fathers, thought I could fix him.
I used my own methods of connecting with him and they never worked
Comment From Phyllis
Any advice for me I have a 17ry old son with autism and am going thru a divorce, he blames me for everything?? Makes me sad.
Hi Phyllis I know this must be a difficult time for you
Due to my denial, my wife gave me an ultimatum. I got on board or out of the house
I had to choose between my family and my own ego
Once I chose correctly we were able to move forward as a family
The most important thing, in going through this divorce is your 17-year-old son
Comment From HEIDI
RODNEY- ALTHOUGH WE’VE COME ALONG WAY , IM STILL SO SCARED FOR MY 18 YR OLD SON- WHO IS ON A 4TH GRADE LEVEL- I THINK MORE SO, AFTER HEARING WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHN TRAVOLOTA’S SON- TO HAV FEARS???
Our son is 13 now and we are thinking about his adulthood and it is a scary time
We need to do a better job as a society working with children who become adults with autism, whether is be jobs, education, housing, integrating into mainstream society.
These all need to be dealt with
No matter what age, you must continue to be an advocate for your son
Comment From Adam
Hello Rodney. Go Trojans!!!
Fight On Adam!
Comment From Tom
How old was your son when he was diagnosed
hi tom Rj was diagnosed at age 3
Comment From Robert
Rodney , Having a son with Autism also i have learned to love all the little things the way he says hi daddy or “Tickle Me” love the book and keep spreading the word
Yes Robert, it is about small wins
I can remember the first time my son said, ‘I want some french fries’ from the backseat. I thought it was the same as us winning the championship game!
Comment From Erin
How do you make sure you have a great relationship with your other children? I find it difficult to make sure there is enough time for everyone and am always afraid someone will feel left out!
Eric, yes it is very difficult
RJ has two brothers and a sister
What we have done is make sure we have educated his brothers and sister about autism, about his abilities so they become advocates for him. They are part of his therapy. Everything they do in interacting with him has helped us engage everyone in this fight
We are getting so many questions which is so exciting!
We are trying our best to answer them all – keep them coming!
Comment From Greta
Can I just get off topic for a second and tell you how excited I am to see you here! My son, Austin, is 5 and was just diagnosed – he’s very high functioning, and I’m very grateful for that. But I am a huge Dallas Cowboys fan (born in Dallas) but I grew up in Mesa. We’re the same age. :) Anyway, I just bought your Kindle version of your book for my husband. I am looking forward to reading it after he’s finished. Thanks for everything you and your family do.
Thank you Greta- we are all in it together!
Comment From Ric
Was it hard to play football and to raise your child?
YES Rick – Thanks God I had a rock for a wife
She rolls up her sleeves at every stage- talked to every doctor, really jumped in with both feet, while I was away playing football!
I like most dads wanted my son to follow in my footsteps
I saw my teammates bring their kids in the locker room. When I brought my son in, he didn’t really understand the gravity of what was going on
I really had to come to grips, that it was about him, not about ME. Once I did that, our relationship flourished
Comment From HEIDI
RODNEY IM SURE UR OVERWHELMED WITH COMMENTS, IS THERE ANY STRUTURE TO LIVE CHAT???? IM CONFUSED??
Heidi, there are just so many coming in, and we are trying our best to answer them all. THANK YOU ALL for being here
We still have 45 minutes!
I wrote a book last year called, ‘Not My Boy!’
The reason I called it that, was because that is how I felt at the diagnosis. ‘No way, Not my boy!’
Understanding the journey we were about to go on, I became very selfish
I made it all about me, when really it was about him. I did not pay attention to therapy or other families who would try and talk to me. I wouldn’t even talk to my wife!
It drove a serious wedge in our relationship. She was onboard and I wasn’t.
I think part of me was embarrassed because I didn’t know how to handle in in public, but what I realized later, is that he has gifts, just like every other kid. We must pay attention to the give HE HAS, not the gift we want him to have
Here is a link to by book, if you are interestedhttp://www.facebook.com/autismspeaks?sk=app_225711834125562
I turned a corner through an embarrassing moment
We had a collective meeting with all of my son’s therapists and I was asked to show them how I was interacting with my son at home
When I attempted to do this, everything was completely wrong. RJ gave me NO response
When the therapist interacted with him, he laughed, joked and smiled. They were connected. At that moment, I knew if I was going to have a relationship with my son, I had better educate myself and accept this.
I had better be onboard 100%
Comment From Elizabeth
How did you and your family handle the looks and stares and ugly little comments that can really make you feel bad?
Elizabeth, that was a great question
Although part of you wants to lash out at the people that are staring and passing comments
We try to use those moments as teachable moments in educating people about autism.
I talk about a moment in my book, when our son was in the 4th grade and he was not getting invited to playdates and birthday parties and his twin sister was
A lot of it was, the kids and the parents didn’t understand what was going on with RJ
we called a meeting with his classmates and hosted an ‘Autism 101′ with Holly and myself
we let the students ask questions, ‘Why doesn’t he say hello?’
ALL questions were asked and we took the ‘scary’ out of autism
we told them that there are some things RJ is Good at and some things he is bad at
He is bad at making friends, BUT he is good at giving the capitals to every state
The kids got it
They came back with, ‘I am good at soccer, but stink at math!’
It was the kids that educated their parents about RJ
From that moment on, he had a great group of friends, that he still has to this day
My wife and I founded The HollyRod Foundation
It is all about helping families and raising their quality of life. Once our son was diagnosed, we moved our focus to that
We began speaking about autism and how it affected our family. When we received a diagnosis, we had no outlets. We want to provide the light at the end of the tunnel
Comment From Alyssa
My husband hides behind his work as the excuse why he hasn’t really connected with our 2 autistic boys. Any ideas you have that I could use as a first step to building a relationship?
You can learn more about us here, http://www.hollyrod.org/
I was the same way.
The first step is trying to understand where he is coming from
I did not hear my wife the first 2 years after the diagnosis. She didn’t want to hear about my feelings about being a father and what I expected about my feelings for my son
I wouldn’t approach it as you need to interact with you son
Approach it as, it is okay you are feeling like this. But you need to connect with your son. Get to know him first
Comment From Mike S
isnt it true that 50 percent of married couples with a child who has autism get divorced? i think its not fair to walk away from each other because of that?? i have a 7yr old with autism been married 9 yrs
I don’t know if that statistic is accurate
But i do know, that sometimes one parent takes the lead, while the other lags behind, which sometimes causes friction
It is important for both parents and the whole family to be educated and onboard. It is okay whatever all happens, as long as the family is involved
I am so impressed with all of the parents and families members on this chat. It is amazing how the community has come together and I am thrilled to be a part of it!
Comment From Lena
Hi Rodney! Our sons are the same age? How are you and Holly handling puberty? I was told that our boys are more intense than other boys their age.
ohhhh Lena, you’ve got that right!
My son is going through puberty right now
and it is definitley having some effects on his emotional state
He is certainly now interested in girls!
I have to to be honest, it scares me!!
I have had ‘The Talk’ with him several times
but until he has experienced, ‘hanging out’ or ‘holding hands’ or anything like that, I won’t know how he responds
He gets very giddy and excited when his sister’s friends come over!
Comment From Guest
Do you have any advice on how to handle meltdowns public?
This is a difficult one, because you don’t always know when they are coming
Every child is different
What works for us, is we always have candy
Some people think it hypes a child up, but it works for us in public places
Whatever works, works!
Comment From REST
How can I help my husband accept and understand our 12 yr old Aspergers son?
I recommend my book- I cover denial, anger, and everything in between
Sorry! here is the right link to ‘Not My Boy!’http://www.amazon.com/Not-My-Boy-Familys-Journey/dp/1401323618
Comment From Mary Len
How old is RJ now and what kind of school environment is he in?
Hi Mary Len
RJ is 13
Last year he graduated 6th grade in a mainstream school
with his twin sister!
6th grade was very difficult because he was reading at 4th grade level. He managed, with a shadow, to do very well
There was a high level of anxiety when thinking about Middle School
We decided to give him a break and create a home school program for him for a year
He will enter 7th grade Middle School in the Fall and thankfully, he will be able to have a shadow with him
There was a lot of anxiety with him in 6th grade with him
He couldn’t keep up with his friends academically, which created behavioral issues that were not good for him
He took the rigid pressure of going directly to 7th grade, and he is back to being a happy excited, flouring kid
It is OKAY that he goes at his pace, not someone elses
It is about, the child, and what is best for him
Comment From anne
do you know where families can go who have an adult child with autism and get financial help for services that medicaid no longer covers, like dental
This is a question that so many families face
Holly and I are frequently asked about this
Autism Speaks developed, the ‘Transition Tool Kit’
The Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit was created to serve as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood.
It covers housing, employment, advocacy, and an array of other topics
Comment From Demi
I heard yall tried the non glutien diet how has that worked for your son?
We did try the non gluten diet
It helped him, especially when he was younger, with focus
He is allergic to peanuts
With his diet over the last 10 yeas we have monitored it for him and it has been very helpful
Comment From Kathy
Rodney, I have two boys both with Autism, one is 8 the other is 6. You are so right, we have to educate society and ourselves to be able to help every child with Autism. Everyday is a blessing and a battle but you begin to appreciate the little things that are accomplished. I thank you and Holly for all of the wonderful things you have brought to help with the fight for a cure. Thank You
Thank you Kathy
Comment From Keisha
I saw the episode of The Talk that you did with Holly and Joe. It was so awesome. I think I need to buy your book for my husband. Somethimes we end up on opposites sides in dealing with our 12 yr old’s Autism
Hi Keisha – that was a great show too!
A many thanks to CBS and ‘The Talk’
Thank you for allowing Holly to have a voice
Comment From Paula
Is your son aware of his diagnosis? I haven’t told my son yet. I think he knows he is different though. The school is pressuring me to tell him. I just can’t bring myself to do that.
Here is a link to ‘The Talk’s’ Show with Autism Dads!
Yes, my son is aware
We thought it was important that he understood what autism was
He needed to know what he was going through
Around 6 or 7
It is important for kids understand what is in front of them
Now that he is 13, he blames autism!
Now he thinks it is funny!
Once, he left pizza under his mattress for 2 weeks
and he blamed autism!
When I asked him why!
It was my pleasure to be here today to chat with all of the families. It is very clear you are all passionate and are trying to find the best way to advocate for your child
Remember, we are in this together
I encourage you to visit autismspeaks.org for more resources and information
My best advice would be, continue to educate the public
The more people understand, the more acceptance our kids will have
Thank you so much – I wish I could stay longer!