World Autism Day 2024: How These Celebrities Use Their Star Power to Raise Autism Awareness

World Autism Day spreads awareness of the adversities the Autism community faces and how others can become advocates.

In observance of World Autism Day, we are highlighting some of our favorite celebrities who are parents to children with autism to spread awareness. Autism is a neurological developmental disorder where symptoms typically appear in the first two years of life, as cited by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Autism spectrum disorder affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. 

In 2023, the CDC reported that for the first time, Black and Latino children were diagnosed more frequently than white children, while one in 36 eight-year-old children were diagnosed with ASD in 2020.

RELATED: Autism: What You Need to Know

While there is no cure for ASD, it is treatable with therapies that focus on communication by promoting social skills.

Medicine is also an option for treatment, but according to the Mayo Hill Clinic, it can not "improve the core signs of autism spectrum disorder, but specific medications can help control symptoms."

Still, with proper management, people with the condition can live a bright and healthy life.

Here are celebrities in our community spreading awareness to combat stigmas in the autistic community.

  • Toni Braxrton

    In 2007, the "Unbreak My Heart" singer discovered her son, Diezel Ky Braxton-Lewis had autism. Still, the R&B singer would face challenges in the medical industry to get her son adequate healthcare.

    "They dismissed me," she told PEOPLE of Diezel's medical team. "I don’t know if it would have made a difference or not for him to be diagnosed earlier, but they had a ‘wait and see’ attitude. It makes me so angry because a mother knows when something is wrong with her child."

    Over time, Diezel's condition evolved, and the Grammy winner announced he was no longer Autistic.

    “My youngest son— everyone knows— my son Diezel suffers from—or I should say suffered from Autism,” she explained to Access Hollywood in 2020. “I am one of the lucky parents. Early diagnosis changes everything. I will tell you this. I will shout it from the rooftops. My son Diezel is off the spectrum.

    She also praised Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright for improvements in Diezel's health. "When she found out about my son and I, she called me immediately and said ‘Get him in this program. Do this, do that.’ She’s been an advocate in helping me so much," she said of Wright who died in 2016, as cited by NBC.

    Following Diezel's breakthrough, Toni said, "He’s our social butterfly. He’s the one who plays with friends and hangs out all the time.

    She added, "Very, very fortunate. And I don’t like to think there’s anything wrong with our babies. I just think they learn differently.”

  • Holly Robinson Peete


    When Holly Robinson Peete and her husband Rodney Peete's son, Rodney Peete Jr., was diagnosed with autism at age two, it would change their lives. With few resources to support them on their new journey, Holly decided to share PJ's medical diagnosis with the world, but Rodney opposed in fear it would "label" and "limit his possibilities in life."

    Still, she persisted in giving hope to others in similar situations.

     “I was this total opposite, I said we have to talk about this, because we have this platform to talk about autism and reach so many others," she told PEOPLE.

    Holly also opened up on their parenting techniques when PJ was a child.

    “Never once did we think about sending him away. I chose a proactive, crazy-mama approach. …We are very goal-oriented. At 6 years old, our biggest goal for him was to have a conversation from start to finish. I say, ‘Hi,’ and RJ would say, ‘Hi, Mom. How are you?’ I say, ‘I’m good and you?” and he would say, ‘I’m good too.’ Now RJ sets goals for himself.”

    "It’s been a long road, and the journey is far from over," while adding, “I am just so proud of my boy."

    Now, at 25, PJ is living his baseball dreams as an LA Dodgers employee.

    "The fact that they employed my son, they hired inclusively, a young man with autism that they gave a chance and he's been here eight years. It's been a godsend," she told the outlet. "So I love this team with my whole heart."

    "He didn't have friends growing up," she continued. "He has just a whole family around him, outside of his immediate family who supports him. And he's like an ambassador here, you know, like he's Mr. Roarke of Dodger Stadium."

  • Shawn Stockman

    Shawn Stockman and his wife Sharhonda have a family of five: a daughter and two older twin boys, 20, including a son Micah, who was diagnosed with autism at age two.

    To spread awareness of the condition, Shawn and Sharhonda created Micha's Voice, a nonprofit organization that provides support and resources to families with autistic children.

    In 2021, the Boyz II Men singer wrote "autism has been THE most challenging thing I have ever faced," in a blog post on the company's website. "But with each small step forward, and every tiny victory. There leaves a remnant of accomplishment and a feeling of worth and purpose."

    At the time, the foundation partnered with SEVENFRIDAY brand watches for a charitable collaboration where proceeds would benefit deserving families.

    "Life is hard," Stockman continued in the blog post, "but it sure is nice to know that there are others on this earth that are willing and able to help make life just a little better."

    That year, he opened up to TMZ about the inspiration behind the collaboration.

    "This watch is different from any other [watch] that you might have because when you look down on it, not only do you look at the smiley face on there, which is the Micah's Voice logo — you can look down and say that you actually helped somebody, he explained to the outlet. "It's not self-gratifying like most watches are. That money will go directly to helping families with developing their child and getting their child right with this journey called autism."

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