The actress Holly Robinson Peete, whose 14-year-old son R.J. has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is embracing her role as a public advocate for families living with the disability.
"As a mom, you worry about protecting your kid," Peete says. "But there are extra added layers of fears when you're talking about a kid with autism or who has some special needs issue. You worry about him being bullied, about being treated unfairly. You worry about him doing the wrong thing in public and it being misconstrued."
Peete, best known for her primetime roles on "21 Jump Street" and "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper," as well as for her hosting duties last year on CBS' daytime chat-fest "The Talk," might not love the extra worrying it brings, but she relishes her role as autism poster parent.
She wants the issues this growing segment of the population faces -- the most recent estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 1 in 88 children lands on the autism spectrum -- to be part of the national conversation.
"We need more support," says Peete, who with her husband, former Detroit Lions quarterback Rodney Peete, in 1997 started the HollyRod Foundation, which helps bring awareness to autism issues, supports families and raises funds.