Denise Richards Shares How She Navigates the World with a Child Who Has Special Needs

Denise Richards Shares How She Navigates the World with a Child Who Has Special Needs

"There's just no road map," says The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills mom.

By Tamara Palmer
Denise, Aaron and Eloise

Denise Richards' adopted daughter, Eloise, 8, has a rare disorder called Chromosome 8, Monosomy 8p, which occurs when a portion of the eighth chromosome is deleted, and the disorder can cause growth and speech delays as well as other physical abnormalities. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has learned a lot about parenting a child with special needs and was happy to share advice when she appeared on the Daddy Issues podcast with Dean McDermott, Adam Hunter, and Nicky Paris.

"A lot of people ask me, oh, it must be really challenging and when I stop and think about it, it is because there are certain things she can't do that other children can. But you grow with your kid and this is all I know of her. It's taught me I had a lot more patience than I thought, and seeing the world through her eyes has been amazing. She can't talk, she can only say a handful of words, so watching how we really can communicate with others without physically speaking [is amazing]. I have a good friend who helps, because she needs to be watched all the time... schooling has been a real challenge."

Eloise didn't get diagnosed until she was a few years old, she added.

"She was actually very hard to diagnose... she just wasn't reaching typical milestones. If I had given birth to her, we would have thought OK, genetically this is something that something is not right. But at first thought, she was just a late bloomer. She didn't walk until she was 2 years old and so just not reaching milestones, and then she was just not catching up at all. She went through a lot of genetic testing. Her specific genes that are deleted, she is the first one in the U.S. database with it documented at that point."

The rarity of her disorder has meant that there hasn't been a specific journey to follow.

"There's no road map," she said. "Other parents have similar things with their children, but I don't know if she will catch up and ever be able to talk the way we talk or go to a traditional school."

Daddy Issues co-host Nicky Paris, who has a brother with special needs, asked how she handles it when strangers ask rude questions like, "What's wrong with your child?" 

"That's the hardest thing. I just flat out then say, 'She can't [speak],' because they'll try and talk to her and then they push it, like as if she's rude or really shy and so I just tell them the truth right there. 'Cause when I see it, I can start to see Eloise feel a little self-conscious."

Richards' husband, Aaron Phypers, who she married in September, has been wonderful — and plans to adopt Eloise. He's her second husband (after Charlie Sheen), and she told the Daddy Issues hosts that divorced women are "probably pickier" the second time around when it comes to choosing a mate.

"It puts things in real perspective, I think," she smiled.

She couldn't be happier with having Aaron as a co-parent.

"Oh, he's amazing as a daddy! I think he's having a harder time adapting to other things with me, like my mouth. That gets me in trouble," she told The Talk in May. "But no, he's amazing with my daughters and he's adopting my youngest, so it's really great."

There's only one complication to completing the adoption process: losing Eloise's birth certificate along with other important documents in the California wildfires last year.

 "It's a tricky process when you lose it," she revealed on the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season 9 After Show. "We're waiting for her birth certificate 'cause you need a birth certificate to say you want to adopt a child. But Eloise adores Aaron."

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