Be Inspired by These Parents Celebrating What Makes Their Kids With Autism Superstars

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Jenni "JWoww" Farley, Jacqueline Laurita, Shawn Stockman and more parents celebrated the gifts their children with autism bring to communities and the world.

ByMike VulpoApr 19, 2022 10:00 AMTags
Watch: Jenni "JWoww" Farley Reveals Son's Autism Diagnosis

Never underestimate the beauty of someone with autism.

For stars like Jenni "JWoww" Farley, Joey Fatone, Jacqueline Laurita, Holly Robinson Peete and Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman, Autism Awareness Month is personal. These parents of kids with autism are celebrating the gifts their children provide to the world around them and joining professionals to educate others about a condition that is estimated to affect 1 in 44 children in the United States today.

"I love that the general public is trying to learn and be more inclusive," speech-language pathologist and board-certified behavior analyst Dr. Ali Arena shared with E! News. "One of the biggest misconceptions I hear is that all autistic people struggle with social skills and making friends. That is not true. Many of the kids and young adults I work with have thriving friendships and relationships."

Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. While many communicate in different ways, Dr. Ali is constantly blown away by the intelligent and enthusiastic individuals she works with on a daily basis.

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"Despite difficulties with regulation and communication, autistic kids have a beautiful gift of finding their passions, connecting with them and sharing that joy with the people in their life," Dr. Ali added. "It's so remarkable to watch what may seem like a small interest as a child grow into a career."

E! News spoke with moms and dads to share what makes their child with autism a superstar and a gift to those around him. Keep reading to see what makes these children shine.

Greyson, Age 5

Mom Jenni "JWoww" Farley:

"Greyson is such an incredibly smart and sweet little boy. He loves drawing, superheroes, sports and working out in the gym! He wakes up every morning with so much energy and excitement to take on the day. By telling Greyson's story, he has become a hero to many. Greyson's journey helps other families know there are people fighting to make the limits limitless." 

Devri, Age 15

Mom Danielle Laudner:

"Devri is 15 and has used song longer than she's used spoken words. As soon as she discovered that others enjoyed hearing her voice and musical talents around age 10, she found a true motivation to practice and perform in public. Nothing like cheering and applause to make you feel good about yourself and the world around you!"

Kloey, Age 12

Dad Joey Fatone:

"Kloey has humbled me as a parent. I am continuously learning how to adapt to how I teach or guide her with each milestone in her development. She inspires me with how well she navigates each day using unique problem-solving skills, sensory concerns and adapting to anything new in her routine."

Hudson, Age 7

Mom Kaley Stymeist:

"Hudson brings out the best in all of us. He makes us slow down and truly see the beauty in the world, whether it's taking the time to watch a leaf fall from a tree or a raindrop roll down the window. Hudson loves with his whole heart and without judgement; his true authentic self is who he is always. He shows us what life is truly about."

Micah, Age 19

Dad Shawn Stockman:

"What makes my son so amazing is that pure 100 percent LOVE. He is so affectionate and gentle. He always wants to help his dad around the house when I'm doing chores. I haven't met anyone more loving than my son."

Channing, Age 5

Mom Lauren Flack:

"While Channing doesn't use many words, he speaks to us through his eyes, his expressions, his laughter, and his joy of life. He has taught us that love needs no words and to enjoy the little things, like watching the leaves blow in the wind and bubbles fall to the ground. To know him is to love him, and to be his mom is the most extraordinary gift I've ever been given. I've learned more about life in his 5 short years then I ever learned the 30 years before him." 

RJ, Age 24

Mom Holly Robinson Peete: 

"It's absolutely impossible to say one thing that makes my RJ so unique. He is the purest sweetest human being I know. Even with his challenges, I would not change him for the world but I will never stop trying to change the world for him. He's a clubhouse attendant for the Los Angeles Dodgers where he takes care of all the players. There's not one player or person in the front office whose birthday he has not memorized! He has a very special brain and I'm so proud of him every day."

Layla, Age 7

Mom Jenn Sousa:

"Layla is who I want to be when I grow up. She sees the world in a different way and is her absolute self—not what society tells her she should be. She lives life loud and proud, and you can't help but want to be on that journey with her. She truly is an inspiration and my best friend!"

Nicholas, Age 12

Mom Jacqueline Laurita: 

"Nicholas is a fun-loving 12-year-old boy whose smile lights up a room. He shows me affection by telling me he loves me, blowing me kisses from across the room and lovingly touching and smelling my face and hair when he's close to me. His photographic memory is unbelievable. He never forgets a person, place or address he's been to. He's a wiz on Google Earth. He's a straight A student in the 7th grade and an exceptional speller! Nicholas has brought our family SO much joy." 
 

Cooper James, Age 17

Parents Jennifer and Scott Koenigsknecht:

"Cooper is an overcomer! Diagnosed with Regressive Autism at the age of 2 and a half, he has worked very hard to be where he is today. He sees every opportunity as a challenge to make himself the person he has dreamed of being and is looking forward to a future as an early-childhood paraprofessional. He is a very genuine and thoughtful son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend. Stay tuned and keep watching Cooper crush his goals!" 

David, Age 7

Mom Christie Kirk:

"David has changed my life in endless ways. He inspires and teaches me new things consistently, and has shown me daily that he will accomplish anything he's determined to achieve. With an astonishing memory, his intelligence is unlike anyone I've ever met in my lifetime. David reads at a level far beyond his grade level and was doing so as early as 4 years old. The affection, love and cuddles he showers those around him with leave us feeling incredibly loved and beyond grateful. He is BY FAR my greatest gift." 

Andrew and Nathan, Age 7

Mom Soffi Yessman:

"'Sometimes the things we can't change end up changing us'—Unknown. [My children's] father, sister and I are better people in so many ways thanks to this double blessing of the sweetest, most lovable boys! They have also brought into our life so many wonderful teachers and therapists with the purest hearts along the way. We are thankful for our little village!"

Maximus, Age 3

Mom Jacquelyn Schulman:

"Max is an amazing autistic child. Autism was never something we had to ‘fix.' It's who Max is—but it's not all of who he is. He is incredibly intelligent. He's been reading for months. He counts backward from 100. He's silly and funny. He loves his family and his teachers beyond measures. The AMAZING Max will continue to blow us away every day with everything he does!" 

Luke, Age 5

Parents Stephon and Christina Chaney:

"Luke is the oldest of three and is a gentle and loving soul. He loves puzzles, organizing and building. We have learned a great deal of patience, compassion and empathy from being his parents." 

Michael, Age 16

Mom Gina McCloskey:

"My son Michael was diagnosed at 18 months old, nonverbal until age 5, self-contained in and out of district placement until 6th grade and is one of the 12.5 percent of kids with ASD that also has epilepsy. In spite of all of that, but also because of all of that, I am incredibly proud to be able to say that today, I have a soon-to-be 17-year-old, who lives a very productive, accomplished and inclusive life with his peers. He is learning how to drive, has a love for math and history, but his greatest triumph to date was securing a spot on Special Olympics Team NJ, which will bring him to Orlando in June to compete in the 2022 USA Games as a Track & Field athlete. Michael has never let autism define him; he accepts it as something that makes him stand out and be a role model to those around him!"

Tayana, Age 13

Mom Shermeka Henry:

"Tay has a heart of gold and is just so pure. You just can't help but to fall in love with Tay. After one conversation, you're hooked, line and sinker. And Tay is such a DIVA and has the looks to go with all that sassiness. She loves everyone and will literally talk to everyone. Tay is so witted and has the best punch lines!! For a kiddo that doesn't get sarcasm, she's extremely sarcastic at the perfect moment. It's not uncommon for her to ask you what your favorite color is. Currently it's 'Do you like the Big Bang Theory?' She's never seen it but says Howard is her boyfriend."

Cory, Age 27

Mom Jill Pavel:

"Cory spends time each day on TikTok and his other social media platforms advocating for others living with autism. He is fearless, brave and compassionate to others. He is changing lives! Hundreds of adults have reached out to thank him for opening up about his life living with autism because they were able to identify and seek out their own diagnoses. Others living with autism have found hope and a new lease on their own lives because he has shown them that living with autism is a challenge at times, but it is also a gift that if cultivated properly, you can absolutely achieve anything you seek out in this life."

Kai, 23

Dad Jean-Pierre Bolat:

"Raising a child with autism brings not only challenges, but incredible joy and unexpected fun. My son Kai's sense of humor kept our family laughing through good times and bad. Kai is so kind and helpful to all, and he is especially attentive to young children and those with disabilities...he always looks to help those who are challenged and he has such an amazing heart. I am so proud of him and excited for his future."

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