Jenny McCarthy

Since her son was diagnosed with autism in 2004, actress Jenny McCarthy has become an outspoken advocate for parents fighting the same battle. She's marched on Washington, made dozens of speeches to concerned moms and dads and spoken about the neurological disorder on The Oprah Show.

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."
Jenny McCarthy

In recent years, a Centers for Disease Control study found that the number of children diagnosed with autism has risen from 1 in every 500 children to 1 in 150—and scientists have not discovered a cause or a cure. Jenny says she believes childhood vaccinations may play a part, but she wants to make it clear that the community she represents is not "anti-vaccine."

"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."
Jenny McCarthy

Jenny says it's not just parents of autistic children who are frustrated. While traveling the country and speaking with thousands of parents, Jenny says she realized every mother and father is afraid for his or her child. "It's not just the autism community. There are women backstage at your show who are pregnant going, 'What do I do?' It's a real fear," she says. "They're not just listening to Jenny McCarthy. They're listening to their next-door neighbor's stories and their best friend's stories."

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."
Jenny McCarthy

During her last Oprah Show appearance, Jenny revealed that the stress of raising an autistic son contributed to the end of her marriage. Once her divorce was final, she said she prayed for a man with a big enough heart to love her and Evan. "We come as a pair," she said.

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.
Jenny McCarthy

Since 2006, Jim has been a big part of Jenny and Evan's lives, but he says it wasn't always easy. When he first came into the picture, Evan wasn't speaking, making eye contact or interacting with his environment. He was lost in his own world.

"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.
Jenny McCarthy

When Jim first came into her life, Jenny says she was nervous about how he'd react to Evan's unintentional disinterest. "Any single mom can relate," she says. "You want your boyfriend to have this connection with your child, so you go, 'Okay, we can be a family.' And when there's nothing given to your boyfriend, you think, 'Oh, no. How is he going to see past it?'"

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.
Jim Carrey

Looking back, Jim says past heartbreaks and breakups have helped him prepare for this time in his life. "Everybody else was a teacher for me," he says. "The hardest ones, of course, gave me a respect for love...for the power of it."

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 Carrey

In Jenny's book Mother Warriors, Jim wrote a chapter for single moms who are waiting for the right guy to come along.

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.
Jenny McCarthy

Despite all the doctor visits, terrifying moments and tears, Jenny says she sees her son's diagnosis as a blessing. "I know why God gave me Evan," she says. "He is a wonderful teacher and an inspiration to the world. It made me who I am today."

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."

Meet more mother warriors.
FROM: Actress Jenny McCarthy: Warrior Moms
Published on September 24, 2008


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