Medical Diplomacy: In the Bahamas, A Message of Hope

August 20, 2010
Visiting Speakers With U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas Nicole Avant

About the Author: Erica Thibault is a Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas.

They call it the “Never Day.” It's the day when parents receive their child's autism diagnosis. It is also the day when many doctors give parents a list of their child's limitations. The parents are told that their child will never be “normal;” will never make friends; will never play sports; and will never say “I love you.”

Actress and autism activist Holly Robinson-Peete, and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, never imagined they would experience a “Never Day” until their first son, RJ, was diagnosed with autism twelve years ago. The Peetes were told to keep their expectations low, but they refused to sit back and accept the limitations imposed by doctors. Instead, the Peetes armed themselves with information on innovative therapies and committed to using their celebrity status to raise awareness and encourage other parents to hold onto hope.

On August 15 and 16, the Peete family brought their message of hope to The Bahamas, where they participated in two outreach events organized by U.S. Embassy Nassau. On Sunday, August 15, Holly Robinson-Peete was the special in-studio guest on the local radio program, Sunday Conversations, where, for more than an hour and a half, she shared stories about how RJ's diagnosis affected the entire family. Joining the live radio conversation by phone, Rodney Peete provided a father's unique perspective. Mr. Peete said he went into "denial" after RJ's diagnosis because of his own expectations as a man, as a father, and as a professional athlete. Mr. Peete documented his struggle to accept his son's diagnosis in his book Not My Boy!.

On August 16, U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas Nicole Avant invited the Peete family to her home for a reception with more than 80 guests, including Bahamian families affected by autism, parents, local specialists, and high- ranking Bahamian government officials, including the Minister of Education, The Honorable Desmond Bannister.

“It is important to raise awareness about autism in The Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean,” Ambassador Avant said. “Bahamian families must be reassured that they are not alone, but that they are among thousands of families in the United States and throughout the world dealing with a loved one who has autism.”

To create an atmosphere for interaction, discussion, and the exchange of ideas with the Peete family, U.S. Embassy Nassau partnered with REACH, The Bahamas' only support group for families with autistic children.

Although Ambassador Avant's reception was the Peete family's first autism outreach event outside of the United States, their message to Bahamian parents remained the same: "Get out of denial quickly, arm yourself with information, keep an open mind and stay proactive, hopeful, and prayerful. Above all, focus on your child's gifts, not on their limitations." Mrs. Robinson-Peete also pledged to share information and offered continued support to the autism community in The Bahamas.

REACH public relations officer Kim Gibson said that the event provided parents with a vital opportunity to share information and strengthen their network. “We are just really happy the Peetes came to bring their story to The Bahamas. It gives us hope. A lot of us feel there is no hope here because of the limited resources, but it lets us see that we are not alone, that if we work hard wonderful things will happen.”

For additional information about autism and related resources, please visit the HollyRod Foundation's website.



Mohamed S.
August 21, 2010

Mohamed S. writes:

This realy very big challenge for parents who have this kind of children.

Salome A.
October 10, 2010

Salome A. in Canada writes:


I listened to Holly's conversation with Coco Brother on BET this morning and was deeply touched by the message.

I am a mother of a 30 year old daughter with Rett Syndrome-similar symptoms to Autism, sometimes the two were confused in my daughters diagnosis 23 years ago.

I too have my daughter living at home with me together with her sister and brother.

It's tough to try and meet the other childrens' needs while trying to provide the best attention to my girl with Rett Syndrome.

Only the grace of God has kept us together this long!

It's even harder when there is no cure and not enough family members to support you when you feel burnt out.

My girl is the happiest person at home and brings so much joy at the end of each day when everyone else around me is complaining about one thing or another.

Thank you Holly and your entire family for preaching the message of acceptance, love, support and encouragement to lonely parents out there.

I hope that one day, a cure for Rett Syndrome will be found.

God Bless,

Salome A.

Brenda O.
California, USA
October 11, 2010

Brenda O. in California writes:

My son is now 15 years old and we are reaching outside of our family for inspiration.. My husband,immediate family and I have always encouraged our sons strengths with very little outside interventions...Health care providers and school administration tested my son for a variety of disorders and their result were always negative until we moved from California to the state of Georgia and sought psych evaluation in 2008, my son at 13 met the criteria for Asperger's Disorder


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