Holly Robinson Peete has always been open about her family's experience with autism, following son RJ's diagnosis at age 3. She's talked about her "severe sadness" that day in the doctor's office, expressed frustration over the lack of crucial information, praised the strides RJ has made in his 18 years and emphasized the incredible importance of resources being made available to all families impacted by an autism diagnosis.
Honesty is at the core of each conversation Holly has, and a mother-son chat with RJ himself is no exception.
When she sits down with RJ on the family's show, "For Peete's Sake," to discuss the recent opening of a new RJ's Place for children with autism in Detroit, the 18-year-old asks his mother a pointed question.
"Do I have autism still?"
It's a heartrending moment. Holly appears unfazed, however, and responds, "Do you feel like you still have autism?"
"Yeah, sometimes I do, but sometimes, I don't," RJ says. "When I act a little crazy, sometimes when I start to cry and feel sensitive, that's when I feel like I have autism."
Holly then brings up the subject of friendships. "Do you sometimes feel like you don't have friends because you have autism?" she asks gently.
"Yeah," RJ answers, looking directly at her. "Sometimes, I see people don't like me sometimes because I have autism."
Anytime you have someone that really doesn't understand you, they're not gonna really know how to love you, because they don't know who you are. Holly Robinson Peete
Recalling a point when he was younger, RJ confesses to his mother that some "friends" of his encouraged him to say inappropriate things to girls and to enter the girls' bathroom. Holly expresses both shock and disapproval, but takes the opportunity to explain to RJ the difference between true friends and those who are not.
"They didn't understand who you were," she tells her son. "Anytime you have someone that really doesn't understand you, they're not gonna really know how to love you, because they don't know who you are."
She goes on to tell RJ that he shouldn't feel sad about not having a huge group of buddies, because most people in life only really need one or two good friends -- which RJ has. He points to his friend Wonder as one of those people.
Again, Holly makes it a teaching moment.
"Would Wonder ever put you in a bad position where you were either in harm's way or you did something inappropriate?" she asks RJ. "He would never do that. That's a real friend. That is how you judge who is your friend, who has your back, who is looking out for you."
"For Peete's Sake" airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.