Nick Lachey: The personal reason I'm supporting autism awareness

Nick Lachey joined Lindt in New York on April 4 to launch the Lindt Gold Bunny Celebrity Auction benefitting Autism Speaks. Michael Simon/Startraksphoto.com

Nick Lachey has never spoken publicly about his brother Zac's diagnosis with autism until now.

The time felt right -- not only because April is Autism Awareness Month, but also because Zac, 19, is OK with his older brother going public with his situation for the first time. Lachey said he "wanted him to be comfortable with that happening."

Shortly after Nick and Drew Lachey left home to start 98 Degrees in the late '90s, their mom adopted two children -- one of whom was Zac. Early on in school, Lachey's mom could tell Zac wasn't learning in "the typical way," Lachey said. Initially they thought it may be attention deficit disorder, but -- at the age of 7 -- doctors diagnosed Zac with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism.

"He's referred to as high-functioning autistic," said Lachey, 40, told CBS News. "So he's verbal and able to go to a fairly typical school. He's socially different than what we perceive as normal for kids. He gets anxious and he's very focused. He hones in one on thing and he can't be taken out of it...He's a good kid, a sweet kid...He just learns differently than most people and reacts to situations differently."

Research shows that 1 in every 68 U.S. children has autism, according to a new report released in March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There's just so many questions and very few answers. It's just something we have to do more research on and we have to get the answers that these families so desperately seek. Mine included."

Which is why Lachey launched the fifth Lindt Gold Bunny Celebrity Auction last week to help raise awareness for autism. He's one of nearly 100 celebrities who have autographed Gold Bunny figures just in time for Easter (others include Sarah Jessica Parker, Fergie, Blake Shelton, Julianna Margulies, Kelly Clarkson, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks and will.i.am, to name a few). All proceeds from the celebrity-signed bunnies will benefit the research and advocacy organization Autism Speaks. And this year, Lindt will make a matching donation for the auction, which runs through April 14.

Family has always been near and dear to Lachey's heart. And now he has a family to call his own; Lachey and his wife, Vanessa, welcomed son Camden in 2012.

"It's incredible," Lachey said about fatherhood. "It's easily the best thing I've ever done. I couldn't have a more magical little boy. He's amazing. Every day he blows my mind in a whole new way. I could go on and on and on. But it couldn't be better."

Lachey's family, meanwhile, is adjusting to life in the Big Apple having recently moved to New York City for Lachey's new hosting gig on VH1's "Big Morning Buzz Live."

"It's different. We come from a house and a little more space to a 2-bedroom apartment," Lachey said. "Everything's different. I think the dog is having the hardest adjustment. He's used to a yard and now he's out there contending with all these other dogs for real estate. It's definitely an adjustment for all us. At the same time, it's such a great city. We're loving our time here."

As for the VH1 show, he's loving that, too.

"It's live TV. We're trying new stuff. Some of it works, some of it doesn't. We're having a lot of fun doing it," he said. "Some of the guests we've had on I've met before. It's great to sit down with people I haven't met and learn about them...As a musician, I love the fact that we have live music every day and a chance to interact with new bands and some we already know. I've had a chance to perform with some of them."

Lachey will soon release his own music, too -- in the form of a covers album called "Soundtrack of My Life." The set will feature songs from movies, ranging from "Love Actually" and "Say Anything" to "Philadelphia."

"It's an album of all movie songs that were meaningful to me growing up," said Lachey. "Whether it was a song that moved me or a song that takes me back to a memory of a movie. So it's more of a personal album in that sense. These are all memories that my fans grew up with as well. The hope is that it will take us all back to take a little walk down memory lane."

The solo album comes a year after Lachey re-teamed with 98 Degrees for a new album and tour -- one that brother Zac also checked out last summer. Although 98 Degrees isn't doing anything right now, Lachey is keeping an open mind.

"We had a great time last summer. It was an incredible tour and it was great to be back with the guys and do what we love to do," he said. "I'm doing this gig in New York, and Jeff's [Timmons] got something going in Vegas. We all agreed to take a break for a year and see what makes sense down the line."

"Who knows? The way we work, anything can happen. We could end up touring again this year for all we know," he added.

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