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Toni Braxton wears sock dress for autism

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Toni Braxton and SheKnows are teaming up to fight autism. The fight is personal for Toni: her 8-year-old son Diezel was diagnosed with autism when he was a young child. 

A mother’s instinct

“As a mom, I knew something was different about [my son] when he was probably about 9 months old,” the Grammy Award-winning singer told Fox and Friends. “By the time he became a year-and-a-half I said, ‘He’s not developing like his older brother.’” But it would be another year-and-a-half before Diezel was finally diagnosed with the developmental disorder. Toni was devastated.

See more strong boy names, like Diezel

Reaching out for help

“I felt sorry for myself for a long time and I blamed myself. I thought it was something I had done,” she revealed. “Friends came to me, that are like me, and said ‘Okay, you’re not a victim, our babies are great, they’re fine, get him into these therapies.’”

Her friends weren’t Toni’s only saving grace. She found tremendous support from another source, too: SheKnows. “I loved them at hello,” Toni said. SheKnows co-founder Nancy Price is also the mother of a son diagnosed with autism. Nancy was able to advice Toni on early diagnosis, keeping an autistic child safe and tips on connecting with that child.

“Early diagnosis makes a lifetime of difference,” says Toni. “We have him in occupational therapy, speech therapy, he’s being mainstreamed and he’s in public school, general ed. He does have his special ed therapies, but we are very, very lucky.”

See more from Nancy Price at SheKnows

Spreading awareness… with socks

To help bring awareness to the disorder, Toni is raising money for Autism Speaks through the SheKnows Where the Other Sock Went campaign.

“It’s a wonderful idea. I mean, we all have washers and dryers at home in America, but there is a sock monster in every dryer,” Toni explained. “So we went to the sock monster and said, ‘Okay guys, let’s do a deal. Give us the socks back, let us do something for charity, make this wonderful dress.’”

Fashionable baby names

Famous fashion contributors

And who better to design a custom-made sock dress but Project Runway All Stars’ Michael Costello? “When SheKnows called me… I was all over it,” the designer told People. “I love a challenge, and I just thought it was something that could be totally cool.”

Michael created a custom one-shoulder gown using more than 700 socks donated and signed by celebrities, and fashion photographer Nigel Barker shot the advertising campaign. The gown was unveiled on Feb. 10, 2012, at New York Fashion Week.

The one-of-a-kind sock dress will be auctioned off this this spring, and all proceeds will benefit Autism Speaks.

How much do you know about autism?

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