RHONJ‘s Jacqueline Laurita on Her Son Nicholas: ‘He’s Brought So Much Joy to Our Family’

07/06/2016 at 06:30 PM ET

Four years have passed since Jacqueline Laurita‘s son Nicholas was diagnosed with autism, and the Bravo star says she’s still learning new things about the condition every day.

When it comes to helping her 7-year-old, “there’s still a lot that needs to be done,” the Real Housewives of New Jersey star says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “But he’s making progress. He’s brought so much joy to our family.”

Jacqueline Laurita
Jacqueline Laurita Instagram

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Laurita, 46, who shares Nicholas, as well son CJ, 14, with husband Chris Laurita, 46, says their youngest has taught the family so much.

“He’s brought us really close together in a lot of ways, too,” she says. “It’s an interesting journey, and I love the journey that we’re on. I’ve met so many great people through it. I’ve just learned a lot.”

Now the O.G. Housewife is returning to the hit reality show after taking a break to focus on her family and Nicholas’ diagnosis — and she hopes Bravo stardom will help families in similar situations cope and “not feel so alone.”

Meanwhile, the reality star has another exciting development to share with fans: Her daughter Ashlee Holmes, from a previous marriage, is engaged and expecting a baby boy this fall.

“She’s come such a long way,” says Laurita of her daughter, once a perennial troublemaker. “Our relationship has come a long way, it’s evolved and we’re all in such a better place than we used to be. It’s just been such a beautiful thing to see.”

Holmes, 25, who is engaged to her longtime friend Pete Malleo, is planning on tying the knot after welcoming the baby so she can have their son in their wedding.

She’s had her wedding planned out for years on Pinterest, but right now she just wants to focus on having the baby,” says Laurita. “She didn’t want to rush or change the wedding date.”

And as for Malleo, Laurita says he feels like part of the family already.

“He fits right in … we love him,” Laurita says. “It’s funny because I knew him as her friend for so long and I would always say: ‘Well, why aren’t you guys dating?’ And then finally they just started dating, and right away, it blossomed really fast.”

“When you marry your best friend, it’s just like the best of both worlds,” adds the proud mother.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey season 7 premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.

For more about Jacqueline Laurita’s return to RHONJ, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

— Aurelie Corinthios

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , Kids , News , Parenting , Reality TV

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Hmm on

How has Ashlee come a long way? Getting knocked up and engaged doesn’t make her educated or financially independent. She basically latched onto a man who will support her, because we all know she doesn’t work!

Anonymous on

I love Jacqueline and I’m happy to hear her son is doing well. I just hope she doesn’t cry as much on the show this season. She’s too nice to be around that vulture, Teresa.

Irene on

She seems like a lovely lady and her son is cute!

audrey on

I look froward the new season of RHONJ this Sunday.

birdsongske on


birdsongske on

I cannot imagine what it is like to have a child with Autism. I am glad that Chris and Jacqueline have chosen to stick together and work on his recovery. As far as her daughter Ashley I have watched this show since the beginning and I think she has come a long way. Watching how protective she has become of her mother shows me at least that she cares. I think their time apart have helped them to both grow. Getting knocked up and engaged doesn’t make her educated or financially independent but it shows she is human. No one knows what is in her heart except Ashley, I for one am going to believe its love