Holly Robinson Peete has her hands full. She's the star of a new reality series on OWN entitled For Peete's Sake, she's getting the word out about her latest book Same But Different and she's crazy busy raising her four children alongside her husband Rodney.
As an advocate for autism, she uses each platform to talk about the disorder, which her twin son, RJ, was diagnosed with at age 3. She and her hubby sat down with EBONY.com to chat about their concerns as parents and what the future could hold for their oldest boy.
EBONY: Tell me all about Same But Different.
Holly Robinson Peete: It's a follow-up to a children's book that we wrote called My Brother Charlie, which was written by myself and my daughter, Ryan. My Brother Charlie was really more for younger kids to explain what autism was. This book is more like what happens to them when they become teenagers. You'll see the subtitle is "Teen life of the autism express." It's told in a really interesting way, and RJ is an author with me and Ryan. It's written like a diary. It's Ryan take on something and then her brother's take on something. It's a smooth read for teens, and I think families will enjoy it, because it's a unique take on autism. I haven't see many books on what happens to these kids when they grow up. You don't really see what happens with dating and social media and what adolescence brings. That's what this book explores.
EBONY: What was it like working with your son on this project? Was he into it?
HRP: He was kind of into it. I think he was into the idea of having his voice heard, but when we would sit down to do it, sometimes he would get a little fidgety. I keep it real. I was like, "It's going to be a good book, and it's going to be a great platform." He said, "Will Rihanna read it?" I said, "Maybe. Maybe Rihanna will read it." That was good motivation. He really does get that he's an advocate for other kids with autism, so when we go around to speak, he's amazing on the mic. He says a few bullet points about how autism isn't who he is but what he has. It's really powerful to hear him speak. I reminded him that we needed to also hear his voice in this book.
EBONY: As he becomes older, what are some of your concerns?
Rodney Peete: There are a multitude of concerns. We're in that transition of his sister getting ready to go off to college, and she is going to move and have a new experience. Part of that is wondering if he will ever be able to live on his own. We address and talk about that quite and also getting a job. We talk to companies and businesses that can accept kids with special needs, and how they can flourish inside that environment. We worry about that. The tough part is that he's fully aware. He's got a lot talent, but it's a tough dance to try to find that niche.
HRP: Another concern, like a lot of parents, is that he is a tall, African-American boy with special needs. That means he processes things differently. He processes cues differently. So we literally role play and walk him through what happens if he gets stopped by the police or if the police ask him to do specific things. We've taken him to our local police station to introduce him, because he walks around the neighborhood a lot. I'm trying to be proactive, because I keep having this recurring nightmare that he's going to be in a situation where he didn't do anything, but he's going to do the wrong move. We know how a lot of times they shoot first and ask questions later. We are very conscious about that, and we cover that a lot in the show.
EBONY: You all are really setting the example. You're taking wise steps not everyone thinks of.
RP: You almost have to. You have to be aware. He's such an independent kid, and that worries us so much. He loves his independence. He knows every restaurant around the neighborhood, and he's the norm when he goes in. But he always has his headphones in, and he wears a hoodie. If he doesn't know someone, he reacts differently.
HRP: Yea, he's quirky. There's not a lot of room for quirkiness in the community just in general. Everyone is so uptight. I just feel like no one thinks outside of the box. No one is going to take the time to look at child and go, "He might be different." Cops aren't trained for that anyway. So we, as parents, have to get in front of that.
EBONY: Will there be future books.
HRP: I don't know. This is our second one on autism. Hopefully, there will be other plans, because I really want him to be more of a voice. We're always talking about kids with autism, but you never really hear from them. That's really important.
Catch the Peete family every on OWN every Saturday at 9 P.M. ET.