She added, “I wouldn’t change RJ for the world, but I would change the world for RJ.”
For years now, actress Holly Robinson Peete has been an outspoken advocate for autism awareness since her son, Rodney, Jr., was diagnosed with autism when he was three. She created the HollyRod foundation to help find a cure for autism, as well as for Parkinson’s Disease (which her father was diagnosed with), had a show called Meet the Peetes that showcased life with RJ, and in 2016, released a book called Same But Different where RJ and twin, Ryan Elizabeth, speak on being teens growing up with autism and having a sibling with the condition. She’s gone to great lengths to expand people’s knowledge on the developmental disorder in the hopes of making it a better, kinder world for kids like him.
When we interviewed her in 2016 about Same But Different, she said one of her major concerns was how the world would treat RJ when he is an adult and he starts navigating things on his own.
“I have met many adults living with autism, they are in group homes, sometimes they live with their parents, and sometimes they are on the streets, homeless,” she said at the time. “My goal is to build a team around RJ, so when I am not here he has a support system, and that is key, he has his siblings, but I want him to have external support.”
But the good news is, RJ has made a very positive entry into adulthood already. Now 20, he’s a working man with friends, communicating just fine with others.
“He never had any friends and now he has a whole dugout full of friends,” she said. “I was so blown away when he was hired.”
Holly has been working for many years to let parents with children who have autism know they’re not alone. So to see the increase in autism awareness over the years, and others doing it, she’s grateful, and glad that she could help get the ball rolling. But more than anything, she’s glad that people, through her efforts and through his development over the years, are seeing a new side of RJ.
“He’s such a genuine kid,” she said. “I wanted people to see that and fall in love with RJ, and then they wouldn’t be so scared of autism. I think he’s a great ambassador, and I knew his spirit and personality would come through.”