Below you can find the un-edited interview I had with the wonderful Jacqueline Laurita from Bravo’s Housewives of New Jersey. She digs deep about her son’s Autism diagnosis, her life on camera, family, and more. Luxury Report Magazine article follows.
How are you and your family coping with Nicholas’ autism diagnosis?
We are coping very well as a family. We are very focused on educating ourselves on all of the resources and information out there that may help us to heal and recover our son. We have had a ton of support from family and friends. We have also received an enormous amount of outreach of from people who have been offering their support and sharing their resources with us, and in return, we are wanting and willing to help and give back not only to all those who have been so generous to us, but to also reach out and share with those who have not been as fortunate as us. It’s been amazing. We are so grateful.
Has the shock worn off yet, or is it still an ongoing process?
We don’t have the time to be in shock or feel sorry for ourselves. Early intervention is key, and that is what we are focused on; making sure that Nicholas gets all the help he needs. He is too little to make his own choices so we, as his parents, have to advocate for him . We need to educate ourselves as much as we can and apply what we’ve learned as quickly as possible so that we can recover our child.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing now?
Some of our challenges include making sure our picky eater is getting all the additional nutrients he needs, since we keep him strictly on a Gluten Free, Caffeine Free, Soy Free, Chick pea Flour/Garbanzo Bean Free, Dairy Free, Wheat Free diet! Our goal is to help Nicholas be the healthiest he can be, from the inside out, so that he can feel his best, and therefore, be more responsive to therapy. Getting Nicholas to speak has also been a challenge but we are working with him on using PECS (picture exchange communication system) and Sign language. We also have him in preschool 6 hours a day with an (Individualized Evaluation Plan ) IEP that includes ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) training. He also gets home therapy five days a week, 2 hours a day with ABA, behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, motor skills therapy, speech and language, just as he is getting at school. We are currently looking into other therapy programs and techniques like Music therapy, Therapeutic horseback riding (hippotherapy) and yoga.
Has it brought your family closer together?
Absolutely! Everyone does their share as we all have a common goal. My husband Chris and I both do our share of research and discuss our next plan of action with each other. My daughter Ashlee, who lives in California now, is very supportive from afar. My older son CJ is the most supportive, loving, patient brother, Nick could ever have. Nicholas responds very well to CJ. They play together. The Manzo’s, Caroline, Albert and her kids, have been above and beyond with their support. My parents call daily and come for visit every few months to help to take some of the load off. The rest of our family is supportive as well.
What tips would you give other moms who may be in your situation?
Educate yourself! the computer is a great tool. Learn about all of the resources and information that’s available relating to Autism. There are plenty of Autism websites and support groups. One the turning points for me was visiting the Autism Speaks website; I felt like I gained so much knowledge from the information provided by this organization, that I wanted to give something back to their charity so I hosted an event for them, The Sparkling Event, and lead a team in one of their walks for charity. It helps to open up and talk about it with others that can relate. Even though what works for one child, might not necessarily work for another, it still might be worth a try, and if you share and exchange your knowledge with others, you may not only be able to help recover your own child, but you may be able to help someone else with their path to recovery for their. Early intervention is KEY! Try the GF/CF diet. Find a doctor familiar with treating autism and/or MAPS (Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs) doctor; find someone who believes that treatment and recovery are possible. Take time for yourself too. Keep your date nights. Take time for yourself! The better you feel about yourself,, the better you will be able to care for and help your child.
Unlike last season, are you planning to address his diagnosis on your show this year? Why/not?
Obviously our son’s diagnosis is out in the open now. It’s nothing we were ever ashamed of; we only wanted to respect our child’s privacy, since we had not received an actual diagnosis yet. We wanted a diagnosis and a treatment plan in place first, so that people couldn’t speculate on what his issues were before we ourselves actually knew and got a handle on what it was ourselves. Taking care of our child’s needs is obviously a huge priority in our lives, so we would be addressing it on the show, however, it will be addressed with the intentions of bringing awareness to Autism, and to help people to understand and relate to the challenges that we go through as parents, as we works towards to recovering our child. I’m not comfortable, however, with making a spectacle out of my son, so I would hope that Bravo would be sensitive and respectful regarding how they present and expose him in front of the camera.. I have faith that Bravo will be sensitive to the matter because they did respect our wishes last season and did not focus primarily on my son while he seemed to regressing and slipping away. Bravo respected that it was an extremely sensitive issue that our family was dealing with, and we are very grateful and appreciative of that.
What’s it like to open up your life/family to cameras?
I’m comfortable with opening up to the cameras because I know that nobody in this life has it easy all of the time and everyone has their good and bad days. I’m ok with not being perfect or having a perfect life. I like that people can relate to me, and will share their experiences, tips and advice with me. It helps me to grow as a person. I learn from watching myself and others. I think and hope that people will learn from us too; even if it’s something as simple as it’s a lesson on how to act or how not to act. I love learning and I love helping others. To me, that’s what life is all about.
What’s been the best/worst part of being a reality star?
The best part about being a reality star is meeting all of the wonderful people that I may have never met had I not been on the show. People have shared their own life journeys with me too, and I feel privileged to have been given that opportunity. I’ve been given so many resources to help heal and recover my son, advice on getting along with my daughter (which has brought us closer than ever) and, in turn, I love sharing what I have learned with others. It has also opened up doors to many other opportunities beneficial to our family. The worst part of being a reality TV star is the hateful people who reach out only with the intent to hurt me because they think they know me, my whole life story and everything that goes on in our day to day lives when the camera’s aren’t rolling….but they don’t. The cameras are not on us 24/7. People are seeing an edited version of the whole picture. Take it for entertainment value and not so seriously. Learn from it, or change the channel. I realize I will never have ALL of the people like me ALL of the time, just as in everyday life. I just get more opinions from others on a much larger scale. Overall, I get a ton of support, . . . more so than not.
What’s a typical day like at home when the cameras?
Typical day is that I get up, stretch, do laundry, take the dog out and feed him, Have some quiet tea time, pack school lunches, make breakfast, get the kids going for school, sit and talk with my husband as we both get ready for the day, drive kids to school, check my emails, work out, clean house, get groceries, put away groceries, research Autism and Beauty related topics, take notes (tweeting in between), make calls, pick up the kids, work with CJ on his homework while Nicholas is in therapy, prepare dinner, play with kids, eat dinner, clean up dinner, Get kids showered, get clothes & backpacks ready for the next day, put kids to sleep, finish laundry, catch up with my husband about each others day, go on the Internet again or read, beauty routine to prepare for bed, go to sleep to start again the next day. People need to realize that we have normal routines just like yours that cameras find too boring to film or air.
Special Thanks to:
Robin H. Wunsh Barron
WUNSH BARRON MEDIA