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Christine McGuinness on hereditary autism in her family

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In an extract from her new book, Christine McGuinness: A Beautiful Nightmare, the star details how she found out that she was autistic. In the past, Christine and Paddy’s three children have also been diagnosed as autistic, betapace o and it was not long before Christine herself was noticing “little hints” throughout her own life that made her suspect that she may be autistic too. Now, the pair are sharing their journey with autism in a new BBC documentary.

“It all makes sense now. And as much as I’m not totally surprised, it’s still been emotional for me to accept, but it’s a relief as well,” Christine said.

“I have been confirmed as autistic. It’s strange, but I’ve noticed there are little hints throughout my life that I’m autistic and more like my children than I ever could have imagined.

“My issues with food, my social ­struggles, how hard I find it to make friends and stay focused, and my indecisiveness. The way I float through life reminds me of how my eldest daughter Penelope is.”

Her formal diagnosis came when both Christine and Paddy, whom she calls Patrick, were invited to meet expert Sir Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University.

Talking to The Mirror Christine explained the process both her and husband Paddy went through, and it wasn’t plain sailing.

“Patrick and I filled out what’s called an AQ questionnaire. It tests for symptoms of autism.

“While lots of people might carry a few traits, to actually be classed as autistic you’re required to score a high number, and I did. The scale goes from zero to 50 and the average ­neurotypical person would score up to 15.

“While my husband was bang-on average, mine was 36, which is high.

“Those two weeks between finding out I’d scored high on the test and my official ­diagnosis from Simon were a turbulent ­whirlwind of upset and trying to process the idea I could be autistic.

“Sir Simon quickly put me out of my misery and confirmed I’m autistic. And not just mildly – I’m quite high up the spectrum.

“It was a lot to take in and once my appointment was over, I broke down in floods of tears. I think it’s because the news conjured up a mixture of emotions and while I’m not totally shocked and it’s a relief, I’m just really sad for my younger self.”

Reflecting on her life at school, particularly when taking examinations, Christine realised why she found it so tough.

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A post shared by Christine McGuinness (@mrscmcguinness)

“Because of my inability to concentrate and my hatred for my school, I left with no GCSEs. I was more than capable of sitting the exams, but I just couldn’t be in that exam hall,” she elaborated.

Autism not only affected Christine at school, but has impacted her adult life as well. She explained how her mind goes “into overdrive” when out and about, and even affects her diet.

“I’ve only tried green food, like broccoli, over the last couple of years. I can eat it, because I know I’ve got to be healthy, but I never once tried colourful food until my 30s. It’s quite common for autistic people to favour beige food.

“So, my autistic traits can range from aversions to patterns, or my issues with food to something really social, like making friends.”

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A post shared by Christine McGuinness (@mrscmcguinness)

After years of making excuses not to socialise, or to even leave the house as a young person in her 20s, Christine is now speaking out about autism and hoping to inspire others who may feel like she did.

The NHS explains that autism is not an illness or a disease, but something that causes individuals brains to work differently to others. Autism Speaks, a charity supporting those with autism elaborates, saying that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication.

Autistic people may:

  • Find it hard to communicate and interact with other people
  • Find it hard to understand how other people think or feel
  • Find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable
  • Get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events
  • Take longer to understand information
  • Do or think the same things over and over.

Symptoms usually appear at a young age, but this does not mean that autism should be seen as a limitation. In fact, research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism. Everyone with autism is different, and help and support can be found on the National Autistic Society website, as well as Autism Speaks.

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