Holly Robinson Peete was ‘ready to leave’ husband Rodney amid their son’s autism diagnosis

Holly Robinson Peete recently revisited her husband’s difficult journey to accepting their son RJ’s autism.

Holly Robinson Peete, RJ Peete, Rodney Peete, Black boys with autism, Black men with autism, Black celebrity families, Black celebrity children, theGrio.com
(L-R) RJ Peete, Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete attend Ping Pong 4 Purpose 2023 presented by Skechers and UCLA Health at Dodger Stadium on July 27, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Kershaw's Challenge)

Rodney Peete Jr. (RJ), the oldest son of actress Holly Robinson Peete and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, is a thriving and beloved Dodgers clubhouse attendant who has the full support of his family. However, having been diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, the journey for the 25-year-old has not always been easy.

His mother opened up on a recent episode of Kelly Ripa’s podcast, “Let’s Talk Off Camera,” about how her family was initially impacted by RJ’s autism diagnosis, noting that, in particular, her husband had a tough time accepting the situation. 

“Rodney was on Denial Street,” the actress told Ripa, per People magazine.  

She added, “[In Rodney’s mind], RJ’s supposed to be the Heisman Trophy winner, and instead, he got the kid who comes to the locker room and runs around and twirls and flaps and stims.”

The mother of four explained that when RJ was diagnosed, she and her husband were given a “laundry list” of things he would never be able to do. The list, she said, included never “mainstreaming” or joining his neurotypical peers in school, never having meaningful employment, never driving, and never saying, “I love you.” 

“[Rodney] could not process this,” Peete noted. 

Peete didn’t give up on her son — or her husband. She explained that she would highlight passages in books about their son’s condition for Rodney to read, but eventually, she came to accept, “We were not on the same page. We weren’t even in the same state or country.”

“I was all alone,” she continued, “and I finally said to him, ‘I cannot eggshell my life around you because you’re sad about the kid you got.’”

Peete expressed that, at one point, she even considered ending her marriage. 

“I was ready to leave him. Did I want to do this on my own? No, but he was no help, and then he was in denial, and even people in his family couldn’t even say the word ‘autism,’” she recalled. 

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Ultimately, she said, “My ‘gangsta mom’ jacket is on, and I cannot [deal] with [him]. So I told him, ‘I’m out of here.’”

Rodney eventually had an epiphany that put things in perspective, enabling him to turn a corner in processing the diagnosis. Peete shared that during a “floor time” session with RJ’s therapist, her husband observed how his son could better connect with the therapist than with his own father. 

“It was through sheer embarrassment that [Rodney] turned it around,” Peete said, adding, “He was like, ‘There’s no way in the world some stranger’s going to connect with my kid, but I won’t.’ And that really was what turned him around, and he’s been on board ever since.”

RJ continues to exceed the expectations initially set for him, including employment and his connections with others. He has a neurotypical twin sister named Ryan, and the parents also share two other sons, Robinson, 21, and Roman, 18. 

The couple currently cohost Peacock’s dating show “Queens Court.”

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