‘Do they understand how much I love them?’ Moment Paddy McGuiness breaks down in documentary about his children’s autism and tells how he threw himself into work to cope with the diagnosis
- Paddy and Christine McGuinness discuss their children’s autism in documentary
- Twins Leo and Penelope, eight, and Felicity, five, are all diagnosed with autism
- Christine is diagnosed with autism during the course of the BBC documentary
- Paddy, 48, admits he fears his children don’t know how much he loves them
Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness opens up about how his children’s autism diagnoses left him feeling clinically depressed and confesses his fears over how the condition affects their relationship in a candid new documentary about his family.
Paddy, 48, and wife Christine, 33, live in Cheshire with their three children, eight-year-old twins Leo and Penelope, and five-year-old Felicity, who have all been diagnosed with autism.
Speaking in a new BBC documentary, the father-of-three admits he initially struggled with the diagnosis and Christine tells how he threw himself into work and tried to cope with the news by earning money to support the family.
Paddy, 48, and wife Christine, 33, live in Cheshire with their three children, eight-year-old twins Leo and Penelope, and five-year-old Felicity, who have all been diagnosed with autism
Speaking in a new BBC documentary, the father-of-three admits he initially struggled with the diagnosis and Christine tells how he threw himself into work and tried to cope with the news by earning money to support the family. He becomes emotional as he discusses the condition
During the course of filming, Christine learns she also has autism. Paddy goes on a journey to better understand the neurological condition and how it might affect his children’s lives.
‘One of my biggest worries is bullying and kids seeing something they don’t recognise as “normal” behaviour,’ he says, on a visit to a secondary school. ‘But you forget how resilient kids are.’
One of his major concerns is that he fears his children’s struggle to interpret and understand emotions might mean they don’t know how much he loves them.
‘What gets to me with them all, and it’s only how I think, I think, “God will they ever know how loved they are. Do they understand what love is?”
‘When I’m in with Leo every night in bed I will always say to him, “who loves you more than anything in the world?” and he’ll say, “you do”, and I’ll go, “who’s your best friend?” and he’ll go, “you are”, and I’ll go, “Do you love Daddy?” and he’ll go, “yeah”. But I think to myself, is he just saying that, or does he know that?’
On seeing her husband becoming emotional, Christine says: ‘Of course he knows you love him. You’ve said it for years about the love thing and it’s something…
During the course of filming, Christine, pictured with one of her daughters, learns she also has autism. Paddy goes on a journey to better understand the neurological condition
One of Paddy’s major concerns is that he fears his children’s struggle to interpret and understand emotions might mean they don’t know how much he loves them.
‘Patrick has worried the children might not feel love or don’t understand and I’ve always said they do. They struggle to show it, or they struggle to appreciate it sometimes everything you do for them because they’re autistic.’
The children were diagnosed four years ago when the twins began to miss developmental milestones.
‘When we first got told they were autistic, I was so upset about it because I didn’t understand it. That’s all it was. Once I understood it, I realised it doesn’t change my children at all.
‘I think my husband buried his head in work and took any opportunity to go away and work. There is times when he just can’t cope with it. There are times when I want to shake him and say, “just get on with it. It’s not that big a deal.”
‘But then the softer side of me thinks how awful must it be to live in a house with children who maybe you don’t understand or maybe you wished didn’t have this condition. That must be really awful.’
Having started from very different places, over the course of filming and learning more about autism, Paddy and Christine move closer together and come to a much stronger understanding about what autism means for their family. Pictured, with Simon Baron-Cohen
Paddy takes particular comfort from speaking to footballer Paul Scholes, pictured, whose 16-year-old son is non-verbal and autistic
Reflecting on how he coped with the diagnosis, Paddy said: ‘I got that down that I had to see a therapist and he diagnosed me with clinical depression.
‘I used to think I was the last person in the world who would have depression because I earn a few quid.
‘I didn’t instantly go, “oh I’m depressed because it was a very slow process. It chipped away at me, with all of the things you have to do, things you have to deal with as a parent of children with autism. It dawned on me that, that’s it, that’s it forever. There’s no “they’ll get better as the years go on”.
‘In that whole haze of clinical depression, if you’d have given me the chance to take autism away from my children, I would have said “yeah” but autism is part of who they are now, so why would I want to take away part of my children, which I love?’
He adds: ‘I love that about him [his son] so why would I want to take that away from him? It’s selfish really.’
Having started from very different places, over the course of filming and learning more about autism, Paddy and Christine move closer together and come to a much stronger understanding about what autism means for their family.
Paddy becomes emotional as he speaks of how he fears his children don’t know he loves them
Christine, pictured, says she was able to come to terms with the diagnosis much faster
Candid: While footage of Paddy being comforted by Christine played, he was heard saying: ‘Autism is a part of who they are now. Why would I want to take away part of my children?’
He takes particular comfort from speaking to footballer Paul Scholes, whose 16-year-old son is non-verbal and autistic.
‘The biggest thing that he said that really resonated, is about not caring what people think. I don’t care what people think either but obviously I do, because I get het up.
‘If anybody mentioned the word autism to me I would say “I don’t want to speak about it, I don’t want to think about it”. Now I’m finally talking about autism, I just wish I hadn’t spent so much time trapped by the fear of it all.’
Christine was diagnosed with autism in August after she and Paddy met Sir Simon Baron-Cohen, director of Cambridge University’s Autism Research Centre, during filming.
The couple both filled out an AQ Questionnaire which is designed to measure the expression of Autism-Spectrum traits in a person. And while an average neurotypical person would score about 15, which Paddy did, hers was 36.
The TV presenter, who has three autistic children (Leo, Penelope and Felicity) said in some areas of the UK receiving a diagnosis can take not months but years
She later decided to seek a diagnosis and Sir Simon confirmed she was autistic.
Paddy previously said he decided to make such a ‘personal’ documentary after homeschooling his children over lockdown.
‘Our kids regressed and it made me think about families who might be in a similar, or worse, position to us.’
He added: ‘I was struggling, so I thought if we did the documentary, other families might not feel so alone or isolated.’
Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism airs on Wednesday 1 December, 9pm, BBC One and BBC iPlayer
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