Autism Awareness: 5 Celebrities Who Are Making a Difference

Autism Awareness: 5 Celebrities Who Are Making a Difference

The Centers for Disease Control has released results of a new study estimating that one in every 88 children (a 23 percent increase from previous studies) has autism spectrum disorder. As April 2 marks the 23rd World Autism Awareness Day, Bookish took a look at the celebrities and advocates who have stepped up to give a voice to those with autism and their families.

Kate Winslet: The Oscar Winner’s Project
In 2009, Kate Winslet provided the narration for an Icelandic documentary called “A Mother’s Courage: Taking Back Autism.” The film followed the story of Margret Ericsdottir and her quest to help her nonverbal autistic son to communicate. Keli eventually learns to express himself, particularly through poems. Inspired by his poem about a hat that helps a boy communicate, Winslet created a special project to help raise awareness for autism. The result is her book “The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism,” which includes photos of some very famous faces (Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Hugh Jackman, Matt Damon and many more). The proceeds from the book will go to the Golden Hat Foundation, founded by Winslet and Ericsdottir.

Temple Grandin: The First-Person Advocate
Adapted into an award-winning HBO film starring Claire Danes, Grandin’s story offered a personal look at people with autism for those with little knowledge of the disorder. Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism in 1950, went on to receive a doctoral degree in animal science, and become a well-known advocate for animal rights and autism awareness. She has authored several books, including “The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger’s” which was repacked for a second edition with 14 new articles in 2011.

Jenny McCarthy: The Controversial Figure
The outspoken model and actress became an advocate for autism awareness when her son was diagnosed with the disorder in 2005. She has served as a spokesperson for Talk About Curing Autism, and authored books on parenting children on the autism spectrum, including “Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism” and most recently, “Healing and Preventing Autism: A Complete Guide” which she co-wrote with Jerry Kartzinel, M.D.. McCarthy has been a polarizing figure, as she has spoken out against vaccinations for children on the basis that mercury in the injections can lead to autism.

Rodney Peete: The Father’s Point of View
When former NFLer Peete and wife Holly Robinson Peete found out their son R.J.—who was 3 at the time—had autism, they were stunned. Dad in particular struggled to accept the new challenges facing his family. Peete provides his account of parenting his son, along with tips for other parents who are handling the same emotional challenges, in his book “Not My Boy!” Peete and his wife are the founders of the HollyRod Foundation, which works to help individuals and families affected by autism and Parkinson’s disease.

Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete: A Family Fights Together Holly Robinson Peete, who appeared on “The Celebrity Apprentice” to raise money for the HollyRod foundation, collaborated with her daughter, Ryan Elizabeth, on a book to help children gain a better understanding of autism. “My Brother Charlie” tells the story of twin siblings, Callie and Charlie. Drawing on their personal experiences, Peete and her daughter share what it’s like to grow up with a sibling who has autism.

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