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Holly Robinson Peete Dedicates Autism Center in Detroit

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Residents of Detroit with children who have been diagnosed with autism now have a new resource, thanks to actress Holly Robinson Peete and the foundation she heads with husband and former Detroit Lions quarterback Rodney Peete.

The HollyRod Foundation has funded an updated room, dubbed RJ’s Place, at the Children’s Center in Midtown. The room not only received a cosmetic makeover, but is now outfitted with 30 tablets and software providing games and tools geared toward helping children with autism. The Children’s Center serves 26 children with autism spectrum disorders, all of whom receive one-on-one time with teachers to help with their development.

RJ is the name of the Peetes’ son, who has autism.

“When we found out our son was diagnosed with autism, it was a scary moment,” Peete said at the unveiling of RJ’s Place earlier this month, as reported by the Michigan Chronicle. “There is a lot of unknown territory that comes with a child with mental disabilities. We knew he needed [as much] love and support, if not more, [as] any other child.”

And as she noted, children of color and their families often have fewer resources when it comes to both diagnosing and treating autism.

“Autism is a very prevalent disorder, and in the African American and Latino community our children are being diagnosed three to five years later than in other communities,” she said. “It is…key that we remove the stigma of autism and other mental disorders to educate and address it head on.”

Autism can be reliably diagnosed around age two. Many children with disorders on the autism spectrum appear to be developing normally until the age of 18 or 24 months, when they suddenly stop gaining new skills or lose the ones they once had.

RJ was diagnosed when he was three, and doctors said he would likely never speak again. With support, however, he did — he even spoke at the event.

He also took time to read My Brother Charlie, a book inspired by his story and co-written by his mother and sister, to some of the children in attendance at the unveiling.

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