Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee opened up about raising three children on the autism spectrum and shared advice for other parents.
On Tuesday, amid Autism Acceptance Month, the couple — who have been married since 2008 and share seven children — joined Good Morning America to discuss raising kids with autism, information shared about a decade ago by the designer and in his 2016 book American Dreamer.
“We have a lot of experience with it,” Dee told GMA‘s Michael Strahan.
Tommy added, “Early intervention is really the key. If you can intervene early and if you sense that your child is off in any way … if they’re not responding or if they seem like they’re in their own world, you should get them tested, and the earlier you get them tested, the sooner you can intervene.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, autism spectrum disorder “is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication.” Some symptoms, which are typically apparent during the first year of a child’s life, are infrequent eye contact, repetition of phrases without comprehension of their meaning, or learning challenges like delayed speech or trouble expressing emotions.
“Our son was counting steps at one and a half years old, and at two, he stopped counting, he stopped speaking,” said Tommy. “He was babbling quite a bit and then just stopped. So we had him tested and obviously, it was a bit of a shock. But once you get over the shock, you then plan to do something about it. And we put all of our energy into getting the best professionals around all of our children who had been affected. And that was really the key to progress.”
In 2017, following a partnership with the non-profit Runway of Dreams which, according to its website, “empowers people with disabilities with confidence and self-expression through fashion and beauty inclusion,” the designer released Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive, clothing made for people with various disabilities.
“My family has been affected by autism and the experience has enlightened me to their needs,” Tommy told Hollywood Life that year. “I thought – wouldn’t it be great to take our (Tommy Hilfiger) styling and make it adaptable for children with special needs.”
Dee told GMA that parents who have a supportive community benefit the most. “… I think it’s really crucial that you talk to pediatricians,” she said. “But also, once the child is diagnosed, I think the most helpful thing for us and for other parents is to seek out other parents … I think it’s important when you receive that diagnosis, it can be quite devastating, but I think seeking out the support of friends made a big, big difference for us.”
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