Boyzone star Keith Duffy has opened up about the living with an autistic child in a touching interview.
The father-of-two spoke candidly about how he and his wife Lisa were initially ‘distraught’ when their daughter Mia, 17, was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old.
But Keith, 42, said they learned to ‘find the positive’ in the situation and urged other parents of autistic children to ’embrace’ their child for who they are.
He said: ‘One of the most important steps for a parent of a child with autism is to stop mourning the child that they thought they had and and start embracing the child that they have.’
The former Coronation Street actor is taking part in a TV documentary, Let Me In, that examines how autistic children and their families are treated in different countries around the world.
Keith, who also has a 21-year-old son, Jay, is an active autism awareness campaigner and regular hosts fundraising events and talks on the condition.
Last year Keith revealed how Mia passed her Junior Certificate – the Irish equivalent to the GCSEs, had been on her first night out and attended her school dinner dance.
Speaking at the time he said he ‘never thought any of this would happen for her’.
However the singer and actor admitted it is not always easy to cope with the disability.
‘Every day you have a realisation that you’re going to have a child with a lifelong disability is absolutely horrifying,’ he said.
‘It’s so frustrating, horrifying, upsetting. But you have to try and find the positive.’
Keith recalled how Mia, who was non-verbal until she was nearly seven, began communicating with physical signals.
He said: ‘She started to become more apart of our world in small ways, she would start to take you by the hand when she needed something and push your hand into whether it was in the direction of the cupboard or the fridge.
‘That was brilliant because it meant that we were moving in the right direction.’
Urging other parents to start to embrace their child’s disability, he added: ‘When they decide to do that, the world becomes a brighter place and every kind of success the child has becomes a celebration.’
He also commented on the need for early diagnosis, saying: ‘The earlier you can diagnose a child with autism the earlier you can put in place an intervention plan and I think that’s fantastic. To make it 11 is an absolute disgrace.
‘Every individual is important. And to leave an individual with a disability like autism to be un-intervened until the age of 11 is just wrong.
‘You have to undo so many things to then put in place what needs to be done.’