Al Roker Opens Up About His Son's Developmental Struggles For The First Time Ever

Most celebrities are under pressure to look and act a certain way in front of the public.

They create a persona that's different from what they're really like once the cameras stop rolling, and thanks to this disillusionment, we often forget that Hollywood stars and other famous personalities are people just like us.

Like the average joe, celebrities also have real problems that even money can't solve.

In recent times, many stars have actually drifted away from this aspect of celebrity culture, in order to paint a more realistic picture of what their lives are really like when no one is looking.

NBC anchor Al Roker is among these celebrities.

Al Roker

Fans of the Today Show are very familiar with Roker's infectious optimism, but what many don't know is that a few years ago he faced a couple of personal challenges that tested his faith and positivity.

In 2001, Roker had total knee replacement on his left knee, then a year later, he underwent gastric bypass surgery to lose weight and get healthy.

He did shed over 100 pounds since, but it turns out, the side effects were less than pleasant. He admitted on national television that he soiled his pants while visiting the White House after the surgery.

"When you have a bypass and your bowel has been reconstructed, you think you're pretty safe," he explained. "I probably went off and ate something I wasn't supposed to."

"I pooped my pants," Roker confessed. "Not horribly, but enough that I knew... So, I was panicking. So I got to the restroom of the press room, threw out the underwear and just went commando."

Three years after the weight loss procedure, Roker went under the knife again. This time, it was to fix a problem with his back.

As hard as it's been dealing with all these health complications, there was another issue that had Roker and his wife, ABC News journalist Deborah Roberts, up at night: their son's condition.

Roker and Roberts recently attended the 2018 ADAPT Leadership Awards Gala in New York City, and took the opportunity to open about their 15-year-old son Nicholas's struggles.

They were interviewed by People and revealed that Nicholas "was dealing with some developmental delays."

According to Roberts, it was apparent from the start that their boy, who was born in 2002, was experiencing complications.

"It was pretty apparent that he was facing some challenges, and we weren't sure what his world and what our future would be," the 57-year-old mother said.

The celebrity parents were able to round up a team of therapists who they hoped would be able to help their son grow climb over the hurdles.

"We wondered was he going to speak? Was he going to walk? And in no time, he was running and talking more than I thought he would ever do," she added. "He eventually began to go to school, and to learn, and to read, and to do all those things that we dreamed and hoped he would do even with all his challenges. He began to dream, he became a swimmer, he joined Taekwondo and three years ago, he become a black belt."
Al Roker and Nicholas
NBC News

Roberts told the magazine that all Nick needed was the right support and he was able to achieve a lot.

Occupational therapist Lori Rothman was one of the experts who started working with Nick since the tender age of three. Roker and Roberts called her "a godsend" and credit their son's accomplishments to the guidance she gave him.  

"He had a lot of issues. He didn't talk. He couldn't walk. He had very low body core musculature," Al said. "And you know, a lot of people were not positive about his outlook. And you know, there was never any of that with Lori."

"When you're parents and there's something not right with your child, sometimes you can almost freeze, because it's so overwhelming," Al said. "And to have somebody who's not only amazing for your child and to your child, but is an advocate for your child, is a godsend."

Over the years Rothman grew attached to Nick, and now considers him a son.

"Some kids are 50-piece puzzles, some kids are 100-piece, some kids are 150. I think Nicky is about 150, if I was to look at Nicky," Rothman said. "My heart is so big for Nicky. You know, Nicky's my son. You know, he's a little bigger than me these days, but he is my son."
Daily Mail

In 2015, the Rokers helped Rothman check an item off her bucket list when they flew her to Miami so she could take part in the Serena Williams Live Ultimate Run, and meet the tennis champion.

Al Roker, Serena Williams and Lori Rothman

Still, people couldn't help but wonder why Roker and Roberts waited this long to open up about an issue that many parents could relate to.

It's not totally clear why the couple decided that now is the right time to share their son's story, but chances are they wanted privacy while dealing with the issue.

Now that Roker and Roberts are ready to share the details of their journey, they're hoping others will follow suit and be "more open to expressing and maybe sharing that a lot of us are dealing with challenges in life."

"There has been a stigma over the years, especially if it's not an obvious challenge that people know, and I think to be able to share and inspire and to give other people the encouragement, I think that life can be enriched and can be better and can be in some ways richer when you are loving and supporting and dealing with somebody who is dealing with challenges."

Roker and his wife aren't the only celebrities whose special needs children turned them into advocates for disabilities, start foundations, and raise millions for research.

Celebrity advocates for special needs children

Actress Jenny McCarthy's son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism in 2005, and she has since done an incredible job at raising awareness and funds for the disorder.

She is currently the president of Generation Rescue, an organization that provides support for families who have children with autism.

Jenny McCarthy and Evan

Actor Colin Farrell's son, James, suffers from a rare genetic neurological condition known as Angelman Syndrome, which causes intellectual disability and seizures. The doting father dedicates a lot of his time and energy into his role as a spokesperson for the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics.

Colin Farrell and his son James

It's really nice to see celebrities open up about their struggles, not only are they able to relate to fans more, they're using their platform to start important conversations.

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.