Saturday, January 03, 2009

Jett Travolta

The news emerged last night that Jett Travolta, the teenage son of John Travolta and Kelly Preston, had died tragically on a family vacation, apparently from a seizure.

There has been much rumour over the years as to Jett's condition and true diagnosis. Not being a huge celebrity watcher myself, I couldn't be bothered to follow up all the Google links this morning, but Kristina Chew, (formerly of Autism Vox, one of my favourite autism blogs) has tackled the subject in her usual balanced manner here on her new blog.

Does it matter whether Jett had autism or not? Well, yes and no. I can absolutely understand a family wanting to keep their child's privacy. Yet at the same time a public acknowledgement, even if it is just to say yes, my child has the condition but we don't wish to sell the story, can help other parents.

When a child is diagnosed with any disability or serious medical condition, families can feel very isolated. Just knowing you are not alone, that even celebrities have children with similar problems, can be comforting. It can help parents get past the denial which is a normal part of coming to terms with the situation, the grieving process for the child you once expected.

Awareness raising is another factor. Again this might be through formal interviews or autobiographies, but it could equally just be by being an active role model. We all have our own levels of how much we want to disclose about our family lives. I feel comfortable in talking about son 2 on here, but as I'm sure you are aware, you read the edited version. My novel is tackling the subject in another way, by combining elements of our story together with things I have learnt from others and by adding in a huge amount of situational fiction. The emotional truth will be told, but in a different way.

I wonder how much more, if anything, the Travolta family will eventually disclose? It is, of course, absolutely their right to keep Jett's life and death private, yet at the same time they could in due course celebrate his life by sharing and helping others.

But in the meantime my sympathies are with them for their sad loss.


Keris Stainton said...

I thought of you as soon as I heard about it. I read a while ago that the refusal to admit to autism was something to do with Travolta's Scientology beliefs.

But the HuffPo article ( claims Jett didn't have autism at all, but Kawasaki Syndrome.

Cathy said...

From what I have read Kawasaki syndrome is very much medical issues rather than developmental ones.

I don't doubt that he also had Kawasaki syndrome, but it seems from reports that there should probably have been a dual diagnosis, after all autism can co-exist with any other condition. I think the Scientology/denial reports may have a truth, but perhaps we will never know.

HelenMWalters said...

I hadn't heard about this. As you say, whatever the circumstances, every sympathy to them at the moment.

Yvonne said...

It's sad and shocking news. BBC News are saying that he had Kawasaki syndrome, but I was unaware of the reports of autism. As such a highly visible scientologist there will be discussions about their attitude towards certain medications.

Unknown said...

My thoughts are with them.

It's a tough one - I can see your point and I have always been open about things - whatever they be in the hope that that honesty may help other but some people just don't work that way..........

Anne Brooke said...

Yes, I was so very sorry to read this today - my thoughts go out to them.


Anonymous said...

Yes that is terribly sad. It would help others though if these celebs and famous A-listers could find the courage to come out of the closet and tell us about their experiences. I sometimes wonder if these famous people think they are better than us "ordinary" folk.

CJ xx

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DJ Kirkby said...

I think it is absolutly tragic that they have lost their son, my worst nightmare.

Cathy said...

DJ, my thoughts entirely, the loss of a child is any parent's worst nightmare.

I watched a recent video clip of John Travolta with his son in Paris, which was on the Huffington Post website, and it was clear that there was a great bond between them. I just hope the family are able to bcome a little more open one day, to put some of the ongoing rumours to rest.

Welcome, Joyce and thanks for your comments everyone.