As he enjoys Father’s Day with his 11-year-old daughter Kloey, Joey Fatone is sharing the challenges that come with parenting a child on the autism spectrum.
The *NSYNC musician shares Kloey, as well as 20-year-old daughter Briahna, with his ex-wife Kelly Baldwin. And while parenting is full of joy and proud moments – like witnessing Kloey make her runway debut in Runway of Dreams Foundation’s adaptive fashion show in Miami earlier this year – the proud dad’s also facing new trials as she approaches her teenage years.
“It’s interesting because you never know what challenges are still to come, because sometimes certain things just don’t connect for her,” Fatone, 44, told ET Canada at Friday’s Bingo Under the Stars event at The Grove in Los Angeles, where he and bandmate Lance Bass teamed up with Backstreet Boys members Nick Carter and AJ McLean to debut their new collaborative band, dubbed “Back-Sync”.
“She may not understand something or with social interaction, she may not realize it’s okay to say, ‘No’ or, ‘I don’t want to play with you.’”
“My daughter’s always willing and giving and has such a big heart, so she always wants to make everyone happy,” Fatone continued. “So, it’s like, ‘Listen, if you’re upset about something, you need to have that conversation.’ As she gets older, it’s about learning those fundamentals of being okay saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to certain things and making your own decisions. That’s one of the trials and tribulations for me.”
Kloey has high-functioning autism (HFA), meaning she is considered cognitively “higher functioning” than others with the condition. However, Fatone is aware of the increased struggles others with autism face, partly through friend Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men.
Stockman and his wife Sharhonda have 17-year-old twins, Ty and Micah, and Micah reportedly began showing symptoms around the age of 1. The family now runs a website, www.micahsvoice.com, to help other families dealing the autism.
“Kloey has a lot more [ability] than a severe [autism patient] like Shawn’s son Micah,” Fatone said. “Me and him are going to be doing some stuff together for autism. It’s great to be able to facilitate and do those kinds of things with my ‘celebrityism.’”
Of course, when it comes to Father’s Day it’s all about being a dad rather than a celebrity, and Fatone’s looking forward to spending Sunday with Kloey, most likely at a theme park.
“I’m flying home tomorrow and I’ll be home Sunday, so I’ll just be hanging with her and probably going to Disney or Universal,” said Fatone, who teamed up with Kloey for the game show “Big Star Little Star”, raising $5,000 for Autism Speaks in 2017. “We love to go to theme parks and do stuff together.”
Before heading home for Father’s Day weekend, Fatone appeared at The Grove to debut “Back-Sync” alongside Bass, Carter and McLean. The musicians performed each other’s hits, including Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” and *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye”.
The evening, where fans ate pizza, drank margaritas from Bass’ Bubble Tap Trailer and played bingo, was to celebrate Pride Month and benefitted LA Pride and The Trevor Project, who were presented with a cryptocurrency check for one million dollars in $TKINU tokens. The musicians presented the contribution on behalf of their involvement with cryptocurrency project Mission Tsuki.
“We’re all diverse in some way, shape or form,” Bass said about how the cause brought together two of the biggest boy bands in history. “It’s about acceptance and coming together.”