Reports surfaced last month that Laurita -- one of the original cast members of the show -- would not be returning for the show’s eighth season. However, the 46-year-old had yet to confirm the news herself until now.
“Unfortunately, I will not be returning,” Laurita tells ET. “I think the feeling [from the network] is that I no longer have an authentic connection with two of the season’s cast members.”
Laurita is seemingly referring to original housewife Teresa Giudice and her sister-in-law, Melissa Gorga, whom she had an explosive argument with during the previous season.
“I think they feel I no longer fit in with the group,” she adds.
Laurita says she was offered a part-time position on the show, with an option of it becoming full-time “depending on how my story unfolded and if I meshed with the group.”
Laurita turned them down. “I just felt that after being on the show for seven years and putting my time and everything into that, to not have a confirmed full-time decision, with that feeling that I had to kind of tryout again, it just didn’t feel right," she shares.
ET reached out to Bravo for comment but the network had no comment.
There were also reports that the real reason Laurita was departing the show was because she had demanded too much money from the network. Not true, says Laurita.
“No, we didn’t even talk money. We didn’t even get that far!” she explains.
Laurita does confirm that another original housewife, the controversial Danielle Staub, has been filming for the latest season.
“I know she is filming, but I don’t know if it has been decided if she is a housewife yet," Laurita says.
So does this mean the door is closed for good on Laurita ever returning to the franchise?
“A full-time position is worth it, it is worth the aggravation!” she admits.
Nevertheless, Laurita is still thankful to RHONJ for giving her a platform to speak on issues near and dear to her heart. The perfect example is her emotional journey following her son Nicholas’ diagnosis with autism when he was three years old.
“It was so nice to be able to use that platform to raise autism awareness and do something good with it,” Laurita says. “All of my ups and downs throughout my seven years on the show made it completely worth it.”
But it wasn’t all an easy road for Laurita and husband Chris.
“It was very hard to see your son taking a gradual decline in his developmental milestones,” she confesses. “He was completely tuned out to us; he wouldn’t even answer to his name.”
“I came to terms before my husband did,” Laurita admits. “I sat my husband down, he was in denial, and every time I would bring it up to him and say ‘something is off,’ he didn’t want to hear it.”
It wasn’t until Laurita forced her husband to take an online test listing Nicholas’ symptoms that he was finally convinced. “That is when it really clicked," she says.
“It was really hard, it takes me back,” Laurita tells ET as she fights back tears, “We both had a good cry and he came to terms with it.”
A surprising friend that came out of all of this? Actress Jenny McCarthy, who has been very open about her own struggle with her son Evan’s journey with autism.
“The first organization that really sat down with us was [McCarthy’s] Generation Rescue,” Laurita says. “She gave me so many resources for helping my son.”
“[McCarthy’s] son went through puberty, I haven’t reached that point yet, now I have a little input on what to expect,” Laurita notes.
Now, the Lauritas are making sure to give back to the autism community that helped them so much in their journey.
McCarthy instructed Laurita to experiment with a change in Nicholas’ diet. “If I can get him healthy from the inside out, he’ll respond better to his therapies,” she says.
“That is where The Little Kernel comes into play on the quest to find these foods to eat,” Laurita says of the new line of miniature popcorn snacks that her husband has launched. The popcorn is made with only non-GMO, gluten-free, whole grain and dairy-free ingredients – diet requirements typical for those with autism.
In addition to a donation of $2500 to McCarthy’s autism organization, The Little Kernel will also be donating a portion of all of its proceeds throughout 2017.
"I’m proud to have Jacqueline by my side as a mother in the autism community," McCarthy exclusively tells ET in response to the news. "We’ve bonded over our journeys and I’m excited The Little Kernel is partnering with my autism charity, Generation Rescue, to support other parents and families affected by autism.”
Nicholas, now seven years old, has made significant progress since his diagnosis. “[He] makes a lot of eye contact, he has a lot of words in his vocabulary now, he is starting to put together sentences, he reads very well above his age,” Laurita boasts. “He is much more engaged and we see progress all the time with him.”
So what does Laurita wish she could tell that young mother dealing with the beginning of an autism diagnosis? “I would say believe that autism is treatable,” she says.
“It’s just accepting that it is not the path you expected but it is just as wonderful,” Laurita professes. “My son brings so much joy to our lives and we have different experiences with him than with our typical children, but they are still amazing. It is opening yourself up to that.”