His parents called Seargeoh their "silent genius" since he showed early abilities to draw, write letters, and repeat certain words.
Sylvester Stallone is an incredibly devoted father. The iconic Rocky and Rambo actor has five children: boys Sage and Seargeoh from his first marriage to photographer and actress Sasha Czack, and daughters Sophia, 26, Sistine, 24, and Scarlet, 20, from his marriage to former model Jennifer Flavin. Despite having a demanding work schedule, Stallone consistently manages to celebrate his children's accomplishments, something he found difficult to do when Sage and Seargeoh grew older. "I make a much better father and husband now than I could have earlier … I sometimes think all men should wait till they're 50 to settle down," Stallone told Women's Day in 2007.
Seargeoh, 43, Stallone and Czack's second child, was born in 1979. Since receiving an autism diagnosis at age 3, Seargeoh has lived a life mostly hidden from public view. When Stallone and Sasha believed Seargeoh was having problems speaking, they sought assistance. They referred to him as their "silent genius" since he showed early abilities to draw, write letters, and repeat certain words. But the issue was worse than they had anticipated. The doctor declared that Seargeoh had autism, a condition that affects at least five out of every 10,000 kids.
Sasha says, "We both broke down." But they decided to take care of Seargeoh themselves, disregarding suggestions to place him in a facility. “I knew that Sly couldn’t get as involved because of his work,” says Sasha. “We do what we have to do. So I just said, ‘Give me the money, and I’ll take care of it.’ ” He did, and she has.
A research fund was created by Stallone and Czack in 1985 and is managed by the National Society for Children and Adults with Autism. In an interview, Stallone said, "Sasha does the hard, in-the-trenches warfare," Stallone told PEOPLE. "I use my films to have premieres that raise money for the fund." Rocky II, a 1979 sports drama movie, marked Seargeoh's acting debut. In the movie, Seargeoh played Robert "Rocky" Balboa Jr., Rocky and Adrian's child.
Stallone accepted his son and supported him in every way possible. "I have to become his playmate. With a child like this you have to put away your ego. You can’t force him into your world. I sort of go along with whatever he is doing." He had built a playground for Seargeoh, so he could relate to nature. The broken father had confessed, "To have a child in this predicament is extremely sad. It’s almost like a radio station—he fades on and off of the signal."
For three years, Stallone accepted his son's illness while continuing to turn down requests for photos that may endanger Seargeoh. “He can pretty much feed himself now,” Stallone said. In the midst of Seargeoh's autism struggles, Stallone and Sasha decided to get divorced in 1985. Despite their divorce, his parents still show him a lot of love. “Life is more than sunglasses and hit movies,” says Stallone. “Reality, that’s the main event.”
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Steve Jennings