Television presenter Carrie Grant and her vocal coach husband David have opened up about their extraordinary family life. The couple – who have been married for almost 30 years – have four children, all of whom have complex needs. Olivia, 23, an actress, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyspraxia. Talia, 16, has Asperger's syndrome (a form of autism) and dyscalculia (difficulty in learning arithmetic). Imogen, 12, is autistic and has ADHD. Nathan, whom David and Carrie adopted as a two-year-old, has attachment issues and ADHD.
Carrie and David Grant are the proud parents of four children
Speaking in an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO! magazine at their London home, Carrie says: "When we’re together, it can be the most wonderful madness where we’re laughing and bouncing off each other. Or we’re having to deal with behavioural issues because one or more of the children are kicking off. Or one or more is in a really low place and you’re talking them round, giving them the will to live. But the more people hear about our family, the more empathy they have for us. And if you hang around us for long enough, we’re the kind of family you want to be part of. It makes all those people who don't fit in think, 'I'd fit in there,'" she laughs, as David jokes: “We put the funk in dysfunctional." Speaking about meeting each other, David says he was "mesmerised" while Carrie describes him as "a phenomenal human being. Anyone who spends time with him says, 'He is such a lovely guy'".
Carrie with her daughter, Talia
Speaking about adopting their son, Nathan, Carrie explains: "A friend was fostering Nathan and asked the Grants if they would be interested in adopting him. “I said, 'The answer's not no, let me ask David.' And he said, 'The answer's not no.' We believe there are too many children in care, and if you have a solid family and a spare bedroom, then it's something everyone should be thinking about. It breaks my heart that these children are in care and remain in care." Because of their experience with their other children, she believes “we are best placed to understand a child who has complex needs".
The family also struggled to help Nathan settle into school after a group of parents petitioned to have him removed from the classroom. Carrie explains: "Like a lot of adopted children, Nathan found it difficult to express all the turmoil that was going on inside his head so he'd have outbursts when he'd hit out, which was difficult for other children in the class. We've always had good relationships with other mums and dads in the school, so it hurt. Walking through the school gate was difficult, having eye contact. Usually I wouldn't think twice about it, I'd be, 'Hi, everyone!' This time it felt like, 'Hi everyone! You all hate my child! Sorry I'm here!' Part of me wanted to apologise because Nathan had caused harm. But I didn't know who I was meant to apologise to."
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Nathan is now "nurtured" in a new school, and Carrie explains that she doesn't bear any grudges, saying: "I'd like to think I'd be like the handful of mums in that classroom who were consistent and friendly and would ask how Nathan was. That helps build the child up into being a part of the community, to feel valued and worth something." During the photoshoot with HELLO! the youngster agrees to take part in one photo, joking: "My life has been completely humiliated."
Carrie and David with their three daughters
Carrie and David, former Fame Academy and Pop Idol judges, say the issues they deal with put everything into perspective. "It makes it hard to relate to other parents sometimes," says Carrie. "For many, their ambition for their children is to get them through the SATs and some get really stressed. "I’m sure I’d be stressed, too, if that’s all I had to stress about, but when you’re thinking, ‘I don’t know if my child is going to make it through to adulthood,’ that’s a real problem." She adds: "Everyone thinks their kids are going to grow up. I can't be certain of that and it makes me very sad."
Praising their brood, they described Olivia as “funny, loud, vivacious and confident" while Talia is “gentle, sweet, creative and empathetic" and Imogen is “quirky, funny and passionate", while Nathan is “adorable, like a wise old sage". The family’s busy lifestyle was inspired by David’s upbringing. "He grew up in a traditional Jamaican home where there’s always food on the stove and people popping in. I walked into that culture and thought, ‘I want to embrace this!’" Speaking about celebrating Mother's Day, Carrie says: "Mother's Day is just as challenging as any other day, but for me it's probably more precious in the last few years because of what we've been through. They're always telling me they love me and that I'm a great mum, and it's lovely to have all four on the same page at the same time. We've come a long way as a family. We're the Grants. It's really hard but it's also really amazing."
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Talia has spoken twice in the House of Commons about autism, and actively supports the National Autistic Society. Speaking about her daughter, Carrie says: "She's really powerful when she speaks, and wants to go out there and show that autism comes in all different shapes and forms and that she's one of the shapes and forms it comes in. I'm really proud of them. They've got a fighting spirit and stand for much more than just being beautiful – which they are. There's a much bigger hinterland to them." They believe all four of their children will have a creative career, describing the youngsters as "mind-blowingly creative". Carrie says: "The creative industries are full of people who're wired differently and so they fit. That different wiring is what produces brilliance."
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