Nearly four years after the death of her teenage son, Kelly Preston is acknowledging for the first time that he was autistic.
During an appearance on "The Doctors," Preston opened up about the 2009 death of 16-year-old Jett Travolta, who suffered a seizure and hit his head in the bathroom of the family's vacation home in the Bahamas. She also detailed the medical conditions that she and her husband, John Travolta, think lead to Jett's disabilities.
"He was autistic, he had seizures, and when he was very young, he had Kawasaki syndrome," the 50-year-old actress said about her first born.
Delving further into the topic of autism, Preston — who has two other children Ella, 12, and Benjamin, 2 — said, "I strongly believe as a mother, as does my husband, that there are certain contributing factors that lead to autism." For her, those included a bout with food poisoning while she was pregnant, her "fast and hard" labor, and taking antibiotics while breastfeeding, which gave Jett thrush (a common yeast infection in the mouth, which some studies have linked to a symptom of autism). Then, when Jett was 15 months old, he was diagnosed with Kawasaki syndrome, a rare illness that mainly affects young children and can cause complications, including lasting damage to the heart and inflammation of the arteries.
According to the New York Post, Preston also says during the episode, which airs Wednesday, "[Jett] was coming out of the autism, he really was."
Additionally, the actress — who adopted a green lifestyle after learning that Kawasaki syndrome could be linked to exposure to carpet-cleaning chemicals — gives viewers a tour of Alternative Laboratories to "empower parents with information about living an organic lifestyle and being surrounded by fewer chemicals."
In the years leading up to Jett's death, Preston and Travolta were heavily criticized for failing to publicly acknowledge that their son was autistic. The celebrity couple never spoke of his diagnosis, talking only about how he suffered from Kawasaki syndrome as a toddler. Their critics thought that they should have joined other celebrities including Jenny McCarthy, Holly Robinson Peete, Sylvester Stallone, and Toni Braxton, all of whom have autistic children, to raise awareness about the disease. Obviously, it was a personal issue for the family that they weren't comfortable sharing with the world.
It ultimately took a legal battle for the Travoltas to go public with Jett's diagnosis. Following the nightmare of losing their son, a paramedic and a Bahamian official tried to extort $25 million from Travolta. It was while the movie star was testifying against the duo that he admitted that his son was autistic. This marks the first time Preston has spoken publicly about it herself.
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