*Photo credit: Micheal Loccisano

Fans of Jersey Shore’s Jenni JWOWW Farley have watched her go through a lot over the years. I still think back to that episode when her ex stole from her and turned her life into a nightmare. When Roger Mathews came along, it seemed like everything just might fall into place but, if nothing else, we all knew she could always rely on her sheer grit and determination.

The pair were married in 2015, the year after they welcomed their first child, a daughter named Meilani. After son, Greyson, was born in 2016, the proud mom regularly posted update videos to her YouTube channel. Suddenly, though, we stopped hearing about Greyson and, after a couple months, she gave us a sobering update—her toddler wasn’t hitting milestones as expected.

Speech Delay

Addressing the fact that having a child with developmental delays is so often associated with a stigma in our society, Farley set out to create a dialogue to help other families in the same situation. She spoke openly on her YouTube Channel and on Jersey Short: Family Vacation about how hard it’s been to see Greyson struggling with language development.

The mother of two said she first noticed her son’s delay when he was 16 months old. “One day I was in the kitchen and looking at Greyson and Meilani. I said, ‘Greyson, Greyson’ and he wasn’t responding. It really came down to him not responding to his name,” the MTV star recalled. Then, she noticed, he didn’t really seem to understand what was being said to him. At that point, she knew it was time to reach out for help.

Seeking Answers

In the update video, Farley describes a feeling that many parents experience—panic. She talks about spending her nights Googling for answers, trying to find anything that will help Greyson meet his milestones, particularly in terms of speech development. She was shocked to discover that many, many parents, and their children, are going through similar struggles.

Too often, when it seems like an issue is common, parents will take a “wait-and-see” approach. In fact, some medical professionals may even downplay concerns and refer to a child as a “late talker” instead of investigating further.

Fortunately, Farley got aggressive about Greyson’s speech delay. She had his hearing evaluated by an ear, nose and throat specialist and, when the results came back normal, and, despite being told it was too early for Greyson to qualify for speech therapy, she kept pushing for answers.

Taking Action

Farley tried to tackle Greyson’s speech delays from every angle. In addition to talking to her son’s pediatrician and taking him to see a chiropractor, she made changes to the family’s diet. The family even recently flew down to Orlando, Florida to meet with a nutritional specialist.

“I removed sugar, gluten and preservatives—anything that would cause inflammation, and certain types of milk. Dairy in general,” the Naturally Woww creator says. “I’m really trying to do an overall wellness and health evaluation on both of them in the most positive way to give them both a fighting chance.”

While Greyson has been participating in co-therapies every week and learning sign language, Farley says that they are “going to step it up a notch soon and get him ABA treatments and speech therapy.”

Diagnosis and Progress

In a recent interview with Hollywood Life, Farley provided a little update on how things have changed for Greyson over the past couple months. He was officially diagnosed with autism but it seems that having this news has given them more direction.

“He’s made leaps and bounds when it comes to speech,” the proud mother revealed. “He’s understanding words better which was his issue. Not that he couldn’t speak, but he would never know what his shoe is or if you said, ‘Greyson,’ he actually didn’t even know his name at one point until he was a little over two. So now that he’s understanding simple words, he’s come so far.”

Marriage Impacted

While Farley was adamant about taking immediate action to help Greyson, she was frustrated by her husband’s response to the situation. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for families to be divided on how to help their children through developmental delays. In fact, many parents go into denial about what they’re seeing

“When Greyson wasn’t hitting his marks in the world of doctors, Roger, couldn’t, not that he couldn’t care less, but he was like, ‘He’s perfect. He’s going to be fine. This is no big deal,'” Farley explained. “In that aspect, I felt very alone because I was the only parent. I thought, ‘Am I bad wanting to get him help because Roger’s not concerned, so should I not be concerned?'”

The reality TV star has filed for divorce but her husband is determined to make things right. “My wife filed for divorce, it’s true…I don’t blame her. There’s no cheating… or any juicy details,” Matthews said. “Here’s what’s also true: I’m not done fighting. I am going to win my wife back. I’m going to win her affection back. I am going to win her love back. I have no intentions on being a single dad. We’re in counseling, so there is hope. It ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings.”

Fortunately, for this family, it seems like both parents are committed to doing whatever it takes to help Greyson as he works hard on reaching his milestones. Counseling for their marriage and therapy sessions for their son will help all of them grow from a difficult situation.

Are You Worried About Your Child?

With her openness to sharing Greyson’s journey and his autism diagnosis, Farley has sparked a much-needed conversation among parents. If your child has been missing milestones and you’re spending your nights Googling for answers, one expert offers three steps you should take to turn things around.

Dr. Mary Barbera is a board-certified behavior analyst, best-selling author and the mother of a son with autism. After being in the autism world for 2 decades (first as a confused and overwhelmed parent then as an autism professional, she’s come up with an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program to help empower parents and children with skills and strategies to improve outcomes.

As Farley indicated, her son, Greyson, will be beginning ABA therapy soon. Want to learn more and take action? Dr. Barbera suggests starting here:

  • Get Familiar with Milestones—While every child is different, it’s a good idea to know when they should be acquiring certain skills. If they miss a milestone, don’t panic but definitely make note of it. A great resource is the CDC Developmental Milestones page.
  • Make a Sick Visit—If you see one or more delays in your child, don’t ignore it and don’t go into denial. The earlier you address any issues, the better your child’s chances of success. Make a sick appointment and talk it over with your child’s doctor. If needed, they can make referrals and/or connect you to valuable services in your area.
  • Learn About ABA—Applied Behavior Analysis has been used for more than 50 years and is considered one of the most trusted, effective treatment options. It can be helpful for children with autism as well as those without autism who are working through developmental delays.

The number of cases of autism have grown over the years and, while we can debate the reasons for this, the reality is that these kids need our support. To learn more about autism spectrum disorders, visit the following links: