Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Peete on "Same But Different" at the 2016 L.A. Times Festival of Books

Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Peete on "Same But Different" at the 2016 L.A. Times Festival of Books

Patt Morrison interviews Holly Robinson Peete, author of “Same But Different”and special guest Ryan Peete at the 2016 L.A. Times Festival of Books.

Women authors, nonfiction, juvenile literature, family, autistic children, autism

hi everyone thank you for coming today a sunny day compared to yesterday this is the first time I've ever read a book written by three people and it was such an engaging and charming book and I want to thank you both for it and RJ who couldn't be here today because in this book are so many things that siblings and parents will recognize in one another but with a difference that one of the two twins has autism now twins are the agencies that science does its work by you study twins to see whether they differ in different environments or circumstances or stresses but the twin relationship is a singular one and you're going to hear about it in a singular circumstance today from the author's Holly Robinson Peete her daughter Ryan Elizabeth Pete and her son RJ Pete who isn't here the book is same but different teen life on the autism express thank you for being here it's our pleasure to be here so first to Ryan obviously when you're a twin you have a special connection but in the case of your brother it's especially special and with the usual stresses and love but then some talk about that relationship a little bit well RJ I've always always have the special bond but with me and RJ it's it's definitely stronger because of his differences I feel a lot more protective over him because of the fact that he's different and and yeah it's just it makes our relationship so much more complex because we're constantly learning like I'm constantly learning through him about about different things about autism and stuff and so and Holly you encourage them to write this book what did you hope it would do I first what really wanted RJ's voice to be heard we often hear about projects especially books written about children with autism but we rarely hear their their narrative we rarely hear what's going on in their head in relationship to in relation to something really specific so it was important that RJ be involved in this project because autism is such a unique disorder in that each kid is different and RJ is such a unique individual and you know Ryan's perspective as a sibling was really important to be heard but this project having RJ speak and and be heard was essential and you chose to use different names in this Callie and Charlie why is that well the story is based off of our own experiences and because it's like not exactly like the same like things that we went through they could take liberties yeah yeah and we wanted to fold in stories of families that we've met along the way so even though all the things that happened in same but different didn't happen to our family they've happened to other families and we've learned in our journey with autism being on the autism express if you will that families have so many situations that they can relate to and we didn't see a book like this available at all your brother's voice comes through very strongly in this at one point he's when he's going to school he says I'm sick of being special I don't want to be special anymore I want to be in the main room in school all I ever hear my parents talking about is getting me into the mainstream well there's nothing main about having kids look at you like I just farted is that why I'm special he sounds like a funny kid he has a very unique sense of humor which is something that kids with autism don't always get to express you know we tend to think of them if they're non-verbal have verbally challenged or if they're highly verbal and on the far side of the spectrum with Asperger's um you rarely hear their sense of humor and it's very unique and for you you go back and forth and some of this book sums it up how much you love him but sometimes you resentful I mean we all resent our brothers at some point but it's a different order because you're expected to be a kind of a little mom and he's perceived you as that kind of controlling figure no offense Holly no yeah definitely just anybody who has a sibling with special needs in general it's very difficult because your achievements don't seem as as great as their victories you know like it's it's very difficult because you're you're always in second place you always have to do things for your brother you always have to do things for your brother you don't necessarily get to take time for yourself and it's extremely rewarding and I of course will always care for my brother would be protective of my brother but at the same time it's hard for me to take time for myself and Holly they write about going on vacation and everything about the vacation has to be gauged 2rj how you get on the plane when you actually go in the water on your vacation yeah so anyone who has a child with special needs knows knows that when you go on vacation with your child you can often struggle to make that the absolute best situation for every one of your kids so the siblings do tend to suffer you know we've been on airplanes with our kid with autism we've been you know on different vacations or at parties we've had to cut things short and the other kids suffer you know they don't get to have all the full experience that they should and so it tends to be a little difficult I can remember going on airplanes with RJ when he would just push the button to get the flight attendant to come I mean it all the like three hours just pushing that button and it was it was so hard and it's hard to find people who are compassionate and who understand these children and how I'm compassionate how amazing they are same but different especially because we we wanted to talk about when they become teenagers and what happens when they become teenagers and how do they how does the the autism impact that part of their lives there's an additional layer of concern you write about is the mom of a black son the anxieties are compounded people with autism generally can't read the emotions of other people so you find yourself in a dicey situation and you're concerned that your son can't figure out what's going on around him yes young people with autism don't always read social cues so we do address in the book that I have a young son who's six threes african-american I panic often as many moms do but especially these days with police issues and you know I panicked that he's going to be somewhere and not be able to respond in the proper way if he gets rolled up on by a cop and says put your hands up so we have actually role played with him to try to get him to understand that he can't call his mommy because that's what he said he's the first thing he wants to do so you can't reach in your pocket and call your mommy so you know part of one of the things that I would love to see in the community is more awareness of how to deal with people with special needs and so that we don't have any headlines and hashtags if you know what I mean was it different when you were both kids and so like most students you may have had a special language a kind of way of communicating that the adults couldn't understand oh yeah it was very different when we were kids in some ways we just be connected so much I don't want to say better than we do now but but you know it was a very it was more emotional I think our relationship and we just smiled and laughed and played and I don't think that i think that what caused our relationship to necessarily change is the impact that society has on on those with autism as you're growing up in stuff and and yeah I just I think that yeah as you got older you went a year ahead in school and you were always kind of looking over your shoulder there's a scene where he's in a new class and these guys are making friends with him and telling him please bring 50 dollars for pizza and you all know that Pizza doesn't cost 50 dollars that they're just taking sheer advantage of him but you want to protect him but at the same time you know he's going to resent being protected that's a classic example of how both of you try to figure out how to let him be his own person but not hurt himself how do you negotiate those it's so difficult because our G just wants to have friends kids with autism really need friends and it's hard for them to make those relationships so when kids roll up and say hey RJ can you can you you know give me $50 for pizza you clearly get a kid that is dying to have a relationship so he will bring that money to school in order to make these connections as his twin sister Ryan being at school with him wants to protect him but she also wants to give him the ability and the freedom to learn in these situations but she doesn't want him to be taken advantage of it's a very difficult line to cross and then he also kind of got resentful towards me when I tried to go in and be like hey you can't do that like these people aren't your friends and you just like go away right you don't know anything like these are the people for me like it was it's very hard to like I don't know it's just very hard to police him in disturbing the right direction Ryan has always been her brother's keeper I mean you had to go through Ryan to get to RJ and when he tried to express his independence as a young man with autism in a junior high school or middle school as we call it these days maleeh had to keep her distance and it built a little bit of resentment and it made him push back on her one of the things that we're waiting for the Air Force to go over there I feel safer now one of the things that struck me about this book that I hadn't read elsewhere is how well it got inside the head of the experience of being autistic and let me read you just a little bit here this is when RJ Charlie in the book has a new class the bell rings that loud Bell kills my head it's time to move to the next class I somehow have to get to math I hate changing rooms I call it the torture race go to my locker struggle with the code put back one set of books pull out another kids all talking loudly strong smells bad smells bright lights that slice at me colors that punch in my eyes I wish I could wear my headphones at school but it's against the rules I'm a sweaty mess by the time I switch rooms I didn't make it to the bathroom in between classes so when I get to my next class I need to pee badly and it just it took me inside his head in a way I hadn't seen anywhere else autism is such a difficult thing to try to explain to someone even I've been on this autism journey for you know 15 16 years and it's still hard to explain I'm always asking RJ for his perspective we we started a reality project on the own network called for pete's sake and one of the reasons why I wanted to do it was because I wanted him to use his own voice to say what he's experiencing and one of the things he said recently was I asked him what it was like to be nonverbal because he got language thank God when he was 10 11 12 and he said mom it was like having a ball stuck in your throat and I thought that was such a profound way to put it and so I think the more we allow the narrative to come from people who actually have autism the better the understanding in the community might be it's my hope anyway what were the mechanics of getting his chapters out of him for this book because he didn't necessarily want to talk about these things and especially because the book is based off of experiences that we had in middle school and that was a really rough time and it's not for everybody but especially refresh yeah cuz you're in the same school I was in eighth grade he was in seventh grade and he was dealing with the same issue like a lot of the friend issues that he happened here are very similar to the same issues that he had actually in middle school and and he didn't really want to talk about it and meanwhile I'm like okay let's like talk all about that we need to spread the word we need to tell people about our experiences and he was very reluctant to do so and so though we had to offer him tickets to Rihanna concert Wow oh yeah he loves Rhianna so you know anything and i can go that rihanna banana you know in front of him it's he loves that we we you know travel he likes to travel he likes sporting games we'd say okay you give us four hours of an interview where you can talk to us about you know what your experiences are and then we really had to convince him about his advocacy how amazingly impactful and powerful it is for him to speak and he gets that especially when we come to things like this or when we travel the country or when we open centres and autism centers around the country because he won't sees firsthand how his advocacy impacts people and he loves that so it's just hard for him to make that jump cuz what kid wants to sit down and just you know talk to you what teenager was to sit down and just talk to you forever but what we got out of him what we were able to mine from him was really autism gold if you will it was just so such good stuff so it was worth it yeah now for you of course this is the sibling you know but there's a chapter in the book Callie says hey you Charlie I would never in a million years ask this to your face but I ask it to my own face a lot when I look in the mirror why me why did I have to be born the twin with a brother like you why do I have to be the strong one why am I the one who flies in on a rescue helicopter again and again and again to save you from whatever bug or hairbrushes or insult is flying in your direction that's a really honest thing to say you know especially like at this time being a sibling with autism are having a sibling with autism is really difficult and like I said earlier you often put your obligations aside to help your sibling and so I'd often have to take care of him and I think now at this point I was getting really frustrated with the fact that he was so reluctant to take my help and I just got tired you know I was very tired of trying to tell him what's right and for him not to listen to me and I was I found myself getting stressed out about this whole situation and you know just got really frustrating and it still is today frustrating to have a sibling with autism because you know you want I want the best for him and it's just hard yeah and poor Ryan I mean what you've had to experience and from a mother's point of view I wanted to make sure she felt she could soar she could fly and I think she felt burdened now she never complained about any of these failed parties or vacations cut short or leaving restaurants early because she felt so connected to her brother and she she took on the autism herself one of the things that was interesting I think I said in the in the in the opening letter it was that when Ryan went into when when the when the RJ was diagnosed in 2000 she went in with him to for the evaluation and she mimicked everything he did diagnoses as well I was like wow she's still she's standing in front of a train for him you know she's like if you're going down I'm going down and that's how she's always been now she's you know about to go off to college and it's a new phase for us and you know I want it's time for her to soar and time for her to you know sort of put back her babysitting of this amazing kid that she's been there for her whole life what did you learn about one another as you were reading this book and working on it that you hadn't known before um one thing I learned about you is I mean I always knew you're pretty honest but I didn't know you were that honest you know like you got really real in that book especially in your opening and closing like letters in the book yeah I was really surprised at how honest you got and how real you got with this book well you surprised me in the fact that you you know you really dug deep and brought back some ugly times and that's not an easy thing to do and so your maturity level and recounting your story the whole time knowing that you advocating for other siblings has been who's been really phenomenal to see so you know we discovered we also got on each other's nerves often writing this book as you there was some things I wanted to include that she was like no no and yeah so we definitely yeah we definitely thought a little bit but that's you know that's part of it this is an easy process than it's not worth it so your brother got Rihanna tickets for doing this would you get I you know I'm just know this is called being on the spot you know I that's rewarded with the amount of people that have been helped very very good answer that's my presence Ryan is about to go to college she's about to go to college back east and she's you know really gonna branch out and and I'm really looking forward to seeing what else she does and yeah as an advocate for autism and everything else it's yeah with me and like I'm topic of moving away for college RJ is super like tense about it he's super like wait like no you can't leave like like he's still wanting me to come and unfortunately I'm Lee committed somewhere else but she wants to go but you know yeah he's being really he's super tense about it he comes into my room and we talk about this a lot he's like are we like am I gonna like call I'm gonna call you every day like we're gonna talk all the time we need to get you to FaceTime and all this stuff yeah it's it's real and like you know for me like I'm excited like my mom said to also branch off and go explore and do my own thing but at the same time scared to leave my brother cuz I've always been so protective of him and so now that I'm leaving I'm just kind of like okay like sure time who's gonna sure time we got him what does he think of the book he loves it he wants to know if Rihanna has read it I don't know if she's read it but she's aware of it put it that way he he loves the advocacy he really gets that he has an impact on the community you know the work and and and doing the work to lead up to it that the it being in the weeds of a book like this was hard for him but he really gets it so he's proud of it before we go to some questions from the audience there are people who have kids who have autism and as RJ says I have autism it doesn't have me which is a great line but who worry about them when they're old enough to live on their own when their parents aren't there when you aren't there for them anymore what what message is there for those people the message is that more and more conversation in one reasons why we wrote this book about what happens to these young people when they need to get out in the world they need jobs community compassion they need you know group homes place to live Self Advocacy there's so many things that they need and the idea is that it's here but but it's it's about a compassionate community so the community has become much more compassionate towards our children as they grow older now so that's the good news I mean the hard hard news is the fact that you know we don't want to let them go and we and we worry about them we worry about their the way they process you spoke to it earlier they process social cues and them getting in situations that could be really I mean deadly in some cases and so we worry we stress as moms but the good news is there are so many more resources and I feel like the hot-button issue in the autism community right now is really these kids that are becoming adults and coming into society what do we do with them they're actually quite brilliant and out-of-the-box ways I was so impressed by his mastery of sports statistics yeah yeah he's got this a masterful brain maybe someplace been Scully hey you never know you know I mean verbally it might be kind of hard cuz VIN was a master but it's funny the Dodgers reached out after seeing an episode of our show to say hey is there something he'd like to do here so that was the goal I want every kid with autism to be able to have opportunity to get a job in the mainstream and many companies the Microsoft's the the Intel's the Walgreens of the world are reaching out FedEx to corporate America has more compassion out for these kids so that's the good news that you're getting corporate America to have conversations about young people with autism and what they can contribute and the skills the particular skills that they're finding the skill set good you know and that's that's really important did you have something else just basically yeah I'm really it's awesome but this with all the different opportunities that are there are for those with special needs and the workforce and everything I'm very confident that my brother and those who are also affected with autism will end up having successful careers and be living successful lives and you know what this book there is one of the main reasons why we both decided that this book could be a good idea and RJ it's because there was nothing out there that was based on going through the autism year like going through autism through the teen years and yeah I'm just really happy and excited to see where this book is gonna go good let's get some questions from the audience you want to raise your hand we are going to hold on to the microphones not you so don't reach for the mic we need to hold on for audio recording reasons so come on up and we will get your question tell us your name and your question my name is Danny Galvez Parker and i'ma try to fit this all in first of all I started reading the book last night and I am so impressed with it as first of all a mother as an educator I teach fifth grade I can't wait to go back and Renick recommend this book to my students what I really liked about it you touched on it was the fact of the two different perspectives what it's like as the sibling but also which you were saying that a lot of times with autistic students or special needs but I think that students the generals were as a teacher I see the quiet ones you when you ask them to write something down they have the most to say so I really like that and I look forward to recommending the book the second but can you make do we get a question yes my question is you've talked about the role of Ryan she's in believing what do you find as the role of the younger siblings or do you find that they're also their brother's keeper yes the younger siblings are like two annoying therapists you know there's nothing like a younger brother to really just just mess you up and just make you go one day RJ said to his younger brother oh you make me sick I hate you and me and his dad were like yes like he is really acting like a that's a broad reaction you know they are extremely they understand that the torch is being passed down to them to look out for him and so that's that's very important and just same but different is a book that we really knew was needed and I really appreciate you mentioning that you teach 5th grade because I feel like that's the target audience for the book like this I think we're just gonna do a really good job at getting the community to be aware of what these children are experiencing thank you so much for your comment question your name and your question my name is LP do solas and as a person who has a personal friend who's autistic where do you see yourself in terms of the educational process of maybe training teachers as well as organizations within the school district that continue to struggle with this very process is that the person or the parent our left lie inside it yes it's very difficult to navigate the world of autism and they are very there are resources there regional centers there are all kinds of places that can help navigate you take you on this journey but it is a struggle and I have seen it firsthand from IEP s to now he's 18 and the Department of Rehabilitation going back there figuring I mean there are so many things and we have you know the blessing of resources and celebrity and all that comes with that but for a single parent for instance dealing with it can be very difficult my suggestion is that there are so many more resources you just really have to roll up your sleeves get on the internet and just exhaust every resource you can find and that's the good news about getting a diagnosis today or having a young person on that on the spectrum today what about having a state or county office of autism that can be a central clearinghouse for all these resources so that we're not leaving for that would be amazing and there has been quite a bit of legislation proposed and trying to get that we really need an autism central you know that we need like an autism czar with the prevalence that autism has now that is off the charts we are not responding in a way that matches the level of prevalence so we got to get on that another question my name is Dino his name's Ryan Michael Michigan the question I need to know is when they get to like 18 years old is it just literally having so badly to see because with me he opened up to me he never opened up to his parents he never opened up to his family I only came up to me well you're that uncle then so you got a I mean if he if you're that person that he responds to you've been chosen that's a good thing it could put a little pressure on you but that's a good thing that shows that he has the ability to open up he has the desire to he can be reached because you reach him it's interesting we just recently opened what we call an RJ's place in the Detroit Children's Center in that area take a look at that I tell your your your brother at your brother's kid and then from Michigan they live here they live here okay so let them know about the children's the Detroit Children's Center they have really great programs for adolescents and pre-vocational programs to give them more resources about how to move through the the adolescent life not enough information about that but you're that uncle so you got to be there for him and it's awesome that you were able to connect with him thank you welcome another question just just a comment I wanted to say to everyone here and say thank you for coming and and and I don't know how many of you are impacted by autism how many of you are affected by autism Wow I just want to thank you all for being so supportive of you know whether it's your children or whether it's your like this gentleman it's his nephew it's the community that we need and the in-laws and you need to build teams around these kids as they go through life so we have a question our questioner is hearing-impaired so I'll hear from her translator okay I'm deaf and I have a cousin how many different levels are there to autism spectrum please tell Lindy thank you for her question and the autism experience is a spectrum it's a spectrum disorder so it goes from children who are non-verbal who even though they don't talk they have a whole lot to say and they're in there and they have a lot to contribute to all the way to kids who are highly verbal and I mean brilliant on another level verbal can tell you everything about anything yet can't look you in the eye and make a friend so it's such a big wide spectrum and there's so many kids that are all over it which is why autism is hard to classify all the way through Asperger's yeah if you still live with your brother yes our son still lives with us he's 18 but our goal is to have him live on his own one day do we have an do we have another question that's all the questions for now thank you audience for your call right now can we let people know about the signing area okay and please thank thank you for coming and really appreciate having you yeah thank you so much and we'll let you know in one second about where they will be signing yes so remain but different yes we'll be signing and we're excited to meet you and and speak with you so thanks again for coming

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  1. I feel bad for her daughter for having to be a second mother to her brother. I don't think Holly realize how unfair she was to her daughter. I see why her daughter wants to go to school far away. Some kids hide their resentment, for always having to play parent to their own brother or sister. P.S Holly you have to stop reminding your son he has autism everyday. Would you like to hear you have bi-polar everyday.

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