When Ed Asner's son, Charlie, was diagnosed with an untreatable disorder, Asner set out to do whatever he would to get him treated. Little did he know that a few decades down the line, his grandson would follow in the same path.
When Charlie was 7 or 8, Asner was engrossed in a nasty custody battle, and it was during these trying times, a psychologist who was assessing the family mentioned something unusual.
He said that Charlie lacked empathy. A few weeks later, Charlie was diagnosed to be on the autistic spectrum by doctors at UCLA's Center for Autism Research and Treatment.
Ed Asner and his grandson Will Asner as he graduates highschool. | Source: Twitter.com/masner / Youtube.com/WFSB 3
Through his son's diagnosis, Asner became an advocate for the disorder and later opened a foundation called The Ed Asner Family Center.
But at the time, despite the news of the diagnosis hitting the Emmy awards winner hard, he says he missed all the signs that could have hinted at his son having autism. He revealed:
“I thought he was utterly charming, and I was in love with him. I was his slave, so I don’t care what title you put on it. He was my boy and I would do whatever I had to do to treat him.”
When Charlie was of school-going age, he had to be enrolled in a special needs class, and Asner says his wife at the time is the one that kept pushing their son to do and be better.
This saw Charlier gradually move to higher classes, and while there, he excelled. Asner says it is for this reason that it took him years to become convinced that his son was autistic.
As a child, Charlie was very active, always climbing trees, running, jumping, and flying through the air, which to Asner, did not seem like a condition. He was also brilliant, and he went on to study at California Polytechnic State University.
Kate is the only Asner sibling who followed in her dad's acting footsteps.
Fast forward to several years later. Matthew, Asner's other son and Charlie's half-brother, married, and his son, Will, was diagnosed with autism. Asner says it was more difficult for Matthew than for him as Will was not as high on the spectrum as Charlie had been.
He, however, says when he saw his son Matthew taking care of Will, all he saw was a father filled with love and compassion for his son.
He adds that he wouldn't have been well placed to bring up Charlie the same way Matthew does for Will, had they been on the same level on the spectrum. Asked to advise other dads, Asner had this to say:
"Dads with autistic kids get a chance to practice what they should've if their kids werent autistic. Autism gives us the chance to prove that we are fathers."
Even though he had a relatively private personal life, the "Up" voice star is a force when it comes to advocating for autism, and together with his daughter-in-law, Navah Paskowitz-Asner, ran The Ed Asner Family Center.
The Parting Glass actor has four children. He married Nancy Sykes in 1959 and together had three kids: twins Liza and Matthew and Kate. In 1987, his then partner Carol Jean Vogelman bore him a son, Charlie.
His eldest son Matthew is the CEO and President of The Ed Asner Family Center and a film producer. Liza is the producer for "God Help Us" and is also a booking agent.
Kate is the only Asner sibling who followed in her dad's acting footsteps. She has featured in movies such as "The Hughleys," "What Women Want," and "Open Season," among many others. Not much is known about his autistic son, Charlie.
Unfortunately, on the 29th of August, the seven-time Emmy Award winner passed on, surrounded by his family. His four children and ten grandchildren survive him. At the time of his passing, Asner was 91 years old.
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