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Exclusive: Christine McGuinness reveals autism struggle: 'It's isolating'

The TV star is a busy mum-of-three

Paddy McGuinness' wife Christine sounds like a supermum to us! The model shares three children, twins Leo and Penelope, eight, and Felicity, five, with her Top Gear host husband and all three have autism, as well as Christine herself.

MORE: Paddy and Christine McGuinness' modern mansion where they're raising three kids

In an exclusive interview with HELLO!, The Real Housewives of Cheshire star Christine opens up about the challenges their family faces, how the couple copes with their children's additional needs and their hopes for the future.

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WATCH: Cutest video of Christine at home with her daughter

Christine spoke to us for her and Paddy's new podcast Table Talk, in partnership with McCain and Family Fund, for which the couple chatted to six families across the UK with disabled children.

Read our interview with Christine below…

 

Hi Christine, lovely to speak to you. You and Paddy have three children with autism and you have autism too… what are your coping strategies?

"Yeah, I was diagnosed last year. I'd spoken about it with my family for a couple of years, that I was possibly on the spectrum, so I decided to explore it and then got the official diagnosis. It was a huge relief.

"Although a diagnosis doesn't change anything, you're able to talk about it more openly once you know. It gives you the confidence to say, 'I might struggle with this' or 'I need a bit of help with this', whereas before, I tried to do everything by myself. It's good to be able to ask for support when I need it."

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Paddy and wife Christine

"I think being autistic has probably helped all along without even knowing because I can relate to the children. I understand them. There are so many things I just get, because I'm the same.

"I suppose I never panicked when they were little and they didn't hit a milestone. I think all children just develop at different stages anyway. I didn't stress about the milestones because I was always quite sure that they were happy.

"Having the diagnosis myself has helped me understand the way I am. I remember going to appointments with the children when they were little for the assessments, and sitting there hearing the paediatrician talking about all of the things they weren't doing. As a mum, I'd think to myself, 'Yeah, but what about all of the things that they ARE doing?' Let's focus on the good stuff - and that's still what I do now.

"They're doing amazingly, honestly. I couldn't be any prouder of our three. It's incredible. They make me proud every single day."

"I also have a really good relationship with the school. I know that my children struggle with socialising more than others and I was the same. Because of my experiences, it's something that I'm really on to, especially at break time.

"My eldest daughter, Penelope, needs a lot of quiet time. At break time she tends to go off on her own. I did exactly the same but to the point where I was isolating myself and never made friends. I ended up leaving school young because I didn't like the environment. But I'm able to speak to the school about her getting the right balance of quiet time and encouraging her to be part of the group. It's about being open and honest and understanding what's right for her."

 

Which situations are most challenging in your house?

"Food was always the biggest issue for us, purely because it's to do with health. You want your children to have a nice healthy, balanced diet and get their vitamins. Ours were very limited as to what they would eat and they still are now. We try not to panic too much about it, and I'm a lot more relaxed now because they're doing so much better. 

I remember weaning our children and it was just really difficult. Any solid food in front of them would get pushed away. Everything was always beige and dry. Chips were always a favourite. McCain is extremely popular in our house.

"Going on holiday or days out are challenging too. It's different when you've got children with additional needs. You've got to prepare so much. By the time you get there, you need another holiday for yourself!"

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Paddy and Christine's three children

 

Is there a difference in how you and Paddy cope with certain situations?

"Yeah. I think I'm a lot calmer and more patient. I kind of just take it as it is. He can be a bit more frustrated… he's very quick on everything and we're all a bit more, 'In our own time, we'll leave when we're ready'. He just wants to get out the door. But between us, it does work. We're a good team."

 

Do you feel your family is complete now with three children?

"We always thought we'd have four children, and now that all three of them are at school – our youngest is five and she started school in September – the daytime for us is lovely, it's so quiet, we've got a little bit of adult time back and we can go for lunch or pop to the gym. So yeah, our baby days are definitely done.

"Some of our friends are just having babies now – you cuddle them and they're amazing and gorgeous – but to think about going back to being up all night and changing nappies, it's hard work! Our three are doing amazingly; they're all at school and it feels like our family is complete."

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Birthday time in the McGuinness household!

 

How do you find working with Paddy on your podcast Table Talk?

"It hasn't felt like work. It's just felt like, you know, we're a couple just having nice chats with other people. The only difficult thing was getting our diaries together because we're both busy, but just chatting together has been really nice. Talking to other parents and sharing stories has been lovely, we've really enjoyed it."

 

Which stories touched your heart?

"All of them for different reasons. We've spoken about going on holiday and the extra costs for children with additional needs, and how it is for siblings. Each and every story has been amazing. You know it's difficult and challenging it is for these families at home, but each one have really heart-warming moments too, celebrations of the little things for families like ours have been lovely to hear.

"And knowing we're not alone. It can be quite isolating – just being a parent can be quite isolating anyway. From what the families said afterwards, it was nice to be able to talk to others that understand."

 

Did it help you and Paddy too?

"Definitely. Because there are times when you think, 'Are we the only ones going through this?' "We haven't got anyone else in our family who've got young children and certainly not children with autism or any kind of additional needs – so for us to sit and share stories with families that understand, that's been really lovely for us."

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Christine looking stunning in a mauve sequinned gown

 

Three-quarters of families with additional needs think they'll always be at a disadvantage, which is really sad…

"It shouldn't be like that and hopefully that will change. I think it's going in the right direction. Talking about it like we are and sharing our platform to give other families a voice.

"Every single day I get so many messages on social media from families saying, 'Please can you share this link', 'Please can you talk about this story' - because everyone is crying out to be heard.

"It's all about making sure our children grow up in a world where they're understood and included. It's getting there.

"Just seeing my children at school, seeing the other children around them and how inclusive it is, they don't feel any different to anybody else. They're always given the opportunity to join in, they're never left out and that needs to continue all the way through life.

"We want our children to be considered for jobs when they're older, for relationships, friendships, all of the things that anyone else would have. I think we just need to keep talking about it to help people understand."

 

What's coming up for you both workwise this year?

"We're so busy this year. Paddy is doing Top Gear so he's all over the world. He absolutely loves it. He gets on with the guys he works with and it's a dream job for him. He's driving cars every day and travelling.

"I'm working on something which I can't say at the minute but it's amazing. I'm so lucky and blessed to be doing what I'm doing."

 

Table Talk with Paddy and Christine in partnership with McCain and Family Fund is out now and available to listen to on all major streaming platforms including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Listeners can support families raising a disabled child, in urgent need, by heading to mccainfamilyfund.co.uk to learn more and donate.

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