By peoplestaff225
Updated October 23, 2008 07:00 PM
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When Toni Braxton‘s youngest son Diezel Ky, 5 ½, was diagnosed with autism in 2006, like countless other parents, her emotional response ran the gamut. "You tend to blame yourself," Toni admits in the Oct. 27 issue of PEOPLE, adding that she tortured herself with the question: "Is there something I did wrong?" With guilt comes a certain level of acceptance — and that isn't always easy to come by, either. "A lot of times, parents are in denial because they want to think their child is perfect," the 41-year-old songstress says. Over time, however, she was able to "come to terms" with the diagnosis and with the help of an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) specialist who works with Diezel both at home and at school, Toni's family appears to have brighter days ahead.

Because she had the experience of raising Denim Cole, her 6 ½-year-old son, to draw from, Toni says she knew that Diezel wasn't developing normally when he refused eye contact and failed to say basic words like "cup" or "juice," or even her name. "As a mom you can tell," says Toni, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit group Autism Speaks. While Diezel continues to exhibit sensory issues, particularly with regard to loud noises, Toni is of the belief that "it's just that these kids have to be taught differently."

Denim, who is described by his mom as "smart," likes to "Google everything." Smart indeed! He even attempted to leverage Toni's appearance on Dancing With the Stars — which ended in a surprise elimination earlier this week — to score an iPhone, asking, "How else am I going to vote for Mom?"

Diezel and Denim are Toni's children with husband Keri Lewis, whom she married in 2001.

Source: PEOPLE