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World Autism Awareness Day: Melanie Sykes and Keith Duffy on raising autistic children

02 APRIL 2014 Melanie Sykes and Keith Duffy has both spoken publicly about their children's autism in a bid to raise awareness about the condition.

Melanie, 43, made a special appearance on Daybreak on Wednesday in support of World Autism Awareness Day to talk about her seven-year-old son.
 

Melanie's son Valentino was diagnosed with high-functioning autism


"Valentino makes me laugh every single day — he is a real character and a joy," she told hosts Lorraine Kelly and Aled Jones.

Its been two years since Melanie first revealed her child's diagnosis, and she explained that while Valentino has high-functioning autism, he still struggles in social situations.

"There are issues such as judging from other people," she said. "Tino looks like a normal child but if he gets overloaded — if in a restaurant there is too much music, or the clatter of cutlery, he will have to get up and hop about.

"He doesn't realise (there are other people near by). I do try and explain to people."

 

The mum-of-two appeared on Daybreak to raise awareness about autism


Melanie, who has a second son Roman, said Valentino "makes me laugh on a daily basis. He has no filter — he just says it how it is. He is a real character — a real joy."

And she urged people to not always focus on the negative side of autism, saying "there is a lot of joy, too".

Melanie isn't the only star who shared her experiences in honour of World Autism Awareness Day.

Former Boyzone star Keith has opened up about life with his 14-year-old daughter Mia, who was diagnosed with autism when she was 18-months-old.

 

Keith Duffy's daughter Mia was diagnosed with autism when she was 18-months-old


In an interview with the Mirror, he spoke about the impact that raising an autistic child had on his marriage to wife Lisa.

"A lot of couples break up and there were certain points it was very tough," admitted the 39-year-old, who met Lisa when he was 19.

"Thank God we stuck together, got through the hard times and are still together."

Keith, who has dedicated a great deal of time to raising money and awareness of autism, said he and Lisa first noticed Mia behaved differently to other children during a trip to Disneyland when she was one.

But it was only when he was invited to a benefit for the education of children with autism that he recognised the same symptoms in his daughter. He went home and told Lisa his suspicions.

"She could see I'd been crying and she panicked," he revealed. "I just said, 'Mia is autistic' and her initial reaction was to slap me. Then she burst into tears because we knew there was something, we just didn't have a name for it — now we did and it made it real."

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