You may understand him together David Rossi in the well-known TV collection “Criminal Minds” or the voice of Fat Tony on “The Simpsons,” but what you might not understand is the actor Joe Mantegna is the parental of one autistic child. Twenty-four years back he and also his wife, Arlene, sat across from a physician hearing the native no parent wants to hear: “I’m pretty sure your daughter is autistic.”


Due to an infection in the umbilical chord, their daughter Mia had to be yielded by an emergency C-section, saving her life. Weighing just 1 pound 13 ounces, she invested the first three months of she life in extensive care. “She to be a really strong little girl,” claims Mantegna. “I saw babies that much greater birth load do lot worse for part reason and not survive.”

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While Mantegna to be in brand-new York City shooting Woody Allen’s “Alice” and also “The Godfather component III,” the pair had the opportunity to observe the toddler communicating with other kids her age. Castle noticed her speech was not at the very same level as the various other kids and there were problems with attention span and focus. This differed from the cautionary indicators of a preemie’s common problems through lungs and also eyesight. It to be time to see a neurologist.

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The autism diagnosis was a shocker. “I remember it hit mine wife and also me like a ton the bricks, because, very first of all, the was just a indigenous we had heard about,” that says. In 1990, autism no as widespread as that is this particular day — Mantegna likens the situation to the fear of polio once he to be a kid. “You to be afraid to walk in puddles and also stuff since nobody even knew just how you obtained it, and there was no cure because that it. Therefore it was a tiny like that.” lock thought, oh my God, our daughter has that an enig disease.

Once they overcame the early shock, however, the pair set out to do whatever they could. Mantegna’s life couldn’t change all that much; together an actor he had actually to travel, and the household was supplied to traveling together. “We observed no reason to prevent doing that. We assumed if us were going to challenge this, stop all challenge it together. Let’s perform this as a family,” the says. The didn’t desire to load his wife caring alone for two children — one through autism — while that went off to do movies in Rome or Canada.

In Chicago, they met a teacher who had a sister through autism, and also she encouraged them that it to be all right to placed Mia in a continuous first-grade class, as long as the kids and the teacher construed what was going on. “That made us realize that us don’t have to entirely buy into the the child has to be in special ed and a safeguarded environment her entirety life.” He tells the story of Mia’s an initial day in ~ the school, once the teacher to walk in prior of the class and said, “This is Mia. She going to it is in a little different than the remainder of girlfriend kids. She could start singing to herself, she can walk approximately the blackboard, she may talk come herself, she might say part inappropriate things. It doesn’t matter. She has autism. And also we’re all going to help her.” He and his mam were in tears. It to be the an initial time anybody had done something like that.

Back in Los Angeles, aside from part special education and learning classes here and there, Mia attended continuous classrooms from fifth grade with high school. Her parents complied with the Chicago schoolteacher’s instance every time. “Just allow the youngsters know. As soon as you include them, as soon as you make them part of the process, the accommodation, they acquire it. They’re an extremely supportive. So you don’t put them in a position where castle wondering, What’s through this girl? Why is she exhilaration so weird?” the says. “Passing the information to others provides all the difference.”

These days Mia functions every Wednesday at Mantegna’s wife’s restaurant, Taste Chicago. She does the bookkeeping, because she’s a whiz v the computer and also numbers. The rest of the main she attends a group dubbed Inclusion Films, i beg your pardon teaches young adults v all type of disabilities every aspect of the film business, and also is operation by Joey Travolta (brother of John), a former special-education teacher.


Although Mia did some acting in high school, her real love is makeup. With her sister, Gia, she take it a nine-week makeup food at the Mudd School, a experienced makeup school. Mia was the an initial autistic person to graduate, and also now she is the assembly artist because that Inclusion Films.

Mia has likewise attended programs offered by assist Group, an organization that helps young adults through socialization. “That’s the thing that needs to be functioned on with countless of this children,” she father says. “The persons with much less severe autism just have actually a trouble with socializing, breaking the ice, make friends, communicating.” The 11-week course was immensely helpful, the says. Although his daughter was always friendly, currently she talks an ext comfortably ~ above the phone.

Does Mantegna watch the autism landscape enhancing in terms of perception, attention, and also treatment?

“Yes and also no,” he says, note that more attention is being paid since the number of cases has actually risen dramatically. (The prevalence of autism is about one to two per 1,000 world worldwide; however, the Centers for condition Control and Prevention (CDC) reports roughly nine every 1,000 kids in the United states are diagnosed with it.) Mantegna admires institutions such together Autism Speaks, which combined with cure Autism currently in 2007.

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While he hopes for earlier diagnosis or possibly a situation where they “twist a chromosome” to stop autism from developing altogether, his emphasis these days is on the kids who room young adults and older, choose his daughter, who deserve to never be totally independent. “These youngsters only stay kids for just so many years. In fact only about an eighth of their life. What carry out you execute with these human being for the various other seven-eighths of their life? that doesn’t go away. As soon as they cured polio, it is fine. Yet how walk it affect the guy who’s walking roughly with braces top top his legs?”


Joe Mantegna admits he is a lucky man. He is thankful his daughter will certainly be taken care of. That’s why the lends his celebrity voice to autism awareness and also charities favor the Barbara Sinatra children’s Center, Easter Seals Chicago, Tutor/Mentor Connection, and also ACT today for army Families. “Why do not do it I? Why i will not ~ I? The older friend get, the much more you realize we room a community. We’re talking about the world. We’re simply this planet spinning about with people on it. Just shot to acquire through it. Execute what friend can. Be nice to each other and also hope because that the best. It’s no a perfect world. It’s not favor the movies wherein they live happily ever before after and everything’s perfect all the time. However it’s okay. You just do the best you can and move forward. That’s what us live by, and also that’s to be fine.”

This write-up was initially published in the feather 2012 problem of mind World Magazine.