Jenny McCarthy's Warrior Spirit
Jenny has also written about her experiences in Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism and in her latest book, Mother Warriors. Since she last spoke with Oprah in September 2007, Jenny says her son, Evan, has made great strides. "He's doing amazing," she says. "He's considered recovered."
When Evan was first diagnosed, Jenny says he stopped speaking and began ignoring the world around him. As with most autistic children, she says Evan's personality seemed to be locked inside him—and she was determined to help him break through. "I made a pact with God the day Evan got his autism diagnosis," she says. "I said, 'God, show me the way to heal my boy, and I will teach the world how I did it.'"
Jenny searched the Internet for recovery stories and treatment options. There, she says she found a menu of possibilities. One treatment she implemented at home was a change in eating habits. She eliminated gluten and casein, found in wheat and dairy products, from Evan's diet. To help her son learn to play with toys as other children do, Jenny tried another approach—video modeling and play therapy.
"[I thought,] 'If this didn't work. I'm going to the next one.' That's a warrior," she says. "We're not talking about crazy things. It's organic food. It's vitamins. These [are] things that moms are sharing with each other."
"We are an intelligent group of parents that know the importance of having vaccines, but we do believe it's about time we have safe ones," she says.
Jenny says she also believes all children should be tested to make sure their immune systems are strong enough to handle immunizations. "What makes us believe that everyone can handle all the shots, all the time?" she says. "Let's protect the [children] who are weak—that's what these warriors are saying. We believe in the protocol. We know we need them, but we deserve safe ones."
In response, members of the American Academy of Pediatrics say they share parents' frustration over the undefined causes of autism and the lack of an established treatment, but they urge parents to be cautious when choosing treatment options for autism. "[We] recommend scientifically validated treatments," their statement says. "There's no valid scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism, but because of unfounded fears about vaccines, the U.S. is suffering its biggest measles outbreak in a decade."
In the past, Jenny says she has invited representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics to study her son and other children like him. "[I] said, 'Please come and look at our kids. Look what we did to make them feel better." Jenny says the American Academy of Pediatrics has not taken her up on the invitation.
Although a restricted diet and vitamin supplements worked well for Evan, Oprah says treatments like these may not be effective for other autistic children. "[It] may work for some, may not work for others," she says. "But that's what the warrior spirit is all about—trying, trying, trying."
Her prayers were answered when she met and fell for Jim Carrey, an actor, comedian and proud father. "To have a man stand by you through thick and thin allows us women to blossom to be the best we can," Jenny says.
"I'm a guy who's used to getting people's attention when I want it, and I'm pretty good with kids, so it was a little bit difficult and hard not to take it personally, frankly, at times when I tried my best to play with him," Jim says. "He was focused on something else, and I could have been on fire in the room, and he wouldn't have noticed me."
Jim says spending time with Evan made him realize that autistic children are here to teach us all a lesson in love. "These kids [have] come to show us how to go somewhere deeper as far as loving. They show us that we have to take our expectation out of the equation and just be there because we want to be there for them," he says. "What I learned is to kind of sit back and try to connect. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, but just be there for them."
Over time, Evan's exuberant personality slowly resurfaced. These days, Jim says the two of them have a blast together. "It's like Star Wars impressions back and forth all day long," he says.
For the first few months of their relationship, Jim says Jenny never mentioned her son's struggle with autism. When the truth came pouring out, so did years of pent-up emotions.
"I call it a nervous breakthrough," Jim says. "I think people have ways of hiding their emotions. People think their emotions are ugly, but when she finally broke down, we were in the kitchen, and I kind of grabbed her and I wouldn't let her go until she dumped it."
For years, Jenny says she hid anger and guilt behind a beautiful smile. "Her therapist told her there was anger there because she felt guilty for giving her son autism," Jim says. "This is what a lot of mothers deal with—this terrible guilt for giving their child a disease."
Over the years, Jim has been Jenny's shoulder to cry on, as well as a voice of reason. "'When you feel it, you heal it' is what he taught me," Jenny says.
When Jim first met Jenny and Evan, he says had an inkling they would become part of his family. "When Jenny came into my life, it wasn't a matter of being out of my mind or over the moon. It was a matter of...the answer always came back 'yes' when I asked questions about her in my head," he says. "Do you want to hang out with this person a lot? Yes. Do you want to see her tomorrow? Yes. Do you feel comfortable with her? Yes.'"
Even though Jim couldn't communicate with Evan in the beginning, he says he knew there was something special about this little boy. "He was such a light. It was undeniable," he says. "I knew it was something important in my life. ... These children, we need them more than they need us. They're here for us to learn."
Jim says women should keep in mind what they do want—not what they don't want—from a partner. "If you go around saying, 'It's impossible. No one will ever love me. A good man is hard to find,' then you're saying to the universe that you don't believe in abundance," he says. "This universe that created the stars, galaxies, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and the duck-billed platypus is quite capable of finding someone for you that has the capacity to love you, no matter what your situation is."
If you convince yourself that you deserve to be loved, Jim says it can—and will—happen.
Jim credits Evan with bringing him and Jenny together. "Evan gave her a depth she never had before that. I mean, maybe she had it, but he brought it out of her," he says. "She became infinitely more interesting to me as a person."
"The warrior came out," Jenny says.
Jenny believes everything that happens to you, in some way, is the best thing that ever happened to you. "You just have to look for it," she says. "See it. Believe it."
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