Holly Robinson Peete

She's fighting the good fight. Holly Robinson Peete is using her gig as cohost of The Talk to give a big plug to National Autism Awareness month. Each Friday in April (starting tomorrow), the CBS chat show will focus on various aspects of the developmental disorder — from inspiring stories of teens living with autism to sage advice for parents whose autistic children are moving into adulthood. Peete knows her stuff. She and her husband, former NFL star Rodney Peete, have four children, one of whom, 13-year-old RJ, was diagnosed with autism one day in 2000. She calls it her "never" day.

"Rodney and I sat across from a developmental pediatrician who listed all the things RJ would never do in life — from never being fully verbal to never playing sports, which was a stab in the stomach for my ex-quarterback husband," Peete says. "After that meeting, we sat in the car and just cried and cried in the most sad, helpless way. Then we got mad. 'How dare anyone tell us what our kid will never do! How dare anyone decide his future!'"

Soon after, the Peetes expanded the scope of their HollyRod Foundation (hollyrod.org) in order to provide compassionate care and support to families living with autism. The going was tough. "There were times I didn't think Rodney and I would make it as a couple," Peete admits. "He was in deep denial for so long. But once he adjusted his expectations and accepted that his son is not going to win the Heisman Trophy, he loved and embraced RJ for all that he is."

By the way, the once "hopeless" RJ recently won a national poetry award and gave an eloquent acceptance speech at the ceremony. You'll see video of it on The Talk.

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